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Ethan Frome ()

Feminista 100 Greatest Works of 20th Century Fiction by Women Writers

This brief but tragic novel casts a weirdly mesmeric spell, helped greatly by the fact that you can read it in one or two sittings.  Ethan Frome is a strapping young New England farmer; like George Bailey he dreams of becoming an engineer and getting out of his small town.  But circumstances conspire against him as he is first forced to care for his ailing parents, then impulsively marries the young woman who was brought in to help his Mother in her final days.  His wife, Zenobia, proceeds to develop her own health problems, real or imagined, and Ethan is trapped in a loveless marriage on a hard scrabble farm that he can not possibly maintain.

Then Zenobia's cousin Mattie Silver, who is destitute, comes to stay with them and help around the house.  Ethan falls in love with her and she with him, but Zenobia, realizing that something is going on, determines to send the girl away.  Ethan struggles against fate, but is too decent to actually run away with Mattie and leave an invalid wife behind.  Despite which, an awful tragedy intervenes and warps the lives and bodies of all concerned.

This ineffably sad tale is filled with all the revulsion at convention that we associate with Wharton and it is also an insidious and subtle attack in the long American war between the advocates of urban and rural life.  Wharton, the ultimate chronicler of urban society, marshals everything from the name of the town, Starkfield, to the portrait of the barren homestead, to the final image of the shattered family left on that farm, to paint the most dismal possible picture of rural life.

It is a deeply affecting work and you will not soon forget the heart rending plight of Ethan Frome.


Grade: (A)


Edith Wharton Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Edith Wharton
    -SHORT STORY: “Miss Mary Pask” (Edith Wharton, library of America)
    -ESSAY: Confessions of a Novelist: “What I mean to try for is the observation of that strange moment when the vaguely adumbrated characters whose adventures one is preparing to record are suddenly there, themselves, in the flesh, in possession of one, and in command of one’s voice and hand.” (Edith Wharton, April 1923, The Atlantic)
-PODCAST: Does Edith Wharton Hate Us?: From The History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson (History of Literature, January 17, 2023)
-ESSAY: Sofia Coppola in Praise of Edith Wharton’s Beloved Antiheroine, Undine Spragg: “We watch her like a car crash while at the same time we root for her.” (Sofia Coppola, November 15, 2022, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Edith Wharton’s Ghosts: Known mainly as a realist, the writer used the gothic form to explore the horror of being confined by gender. (Jennifer R. Bernstein, Boston Review)
    -ESSAY: “Yoknapatawpha on the Hudson”?: On the Novelistic Universe of Edith Wharton Krithika Varagur Rereads The Old Maid (Krithika Varagur, May 12, 2022, LitHub)
    -PODCAST: Edith Wharton (Melvyn Bragg, BBC: In Ourt Times)
    -ESSAY: Edith Wharton on How to Write a Vivid First Line: "[It] should be something more than a trick." (Edith Wharton, March 11, 2022, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: The Age of Innocence is a masterclass in sexual tension: In Edith Wharton’s wonderful novel about New York high society, a simple tap of a fan or glance across a crowded room can feel intensely charged (Sam Jordison, 8 Sep 2020, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Ghosts by Edith Wharton (Sheila Liming, Cleveland Review of Books)

Book-related and General Links:
-The Edith Wharton Society Home Page
    -Edith Wharton Restoration
    -Edith Wharton's World (National Portrait Gallery)
    -Edith Wharton: an Overview with Biocritical Resources
    -Domestic Goddess: Edith Wharton
    -PAL: Edith Wharton (1862-1937)(PAL: Perspectives in American Literature:   A Research and Reference Guide)
    -The San Antonio College LitWeb Edith Wharton Page
    -Edith Wharton (Kutztown)
    -Wharton, Edith:  Ethan Frome (Medical Humanities)
    -Literary Research Guide: Edith Wharton (1862 - 1937)
    -ONLINE STUDY GUIDE:  Ethan Frome  by Edith Wharton (Spark Note Writer,  Jim Cocola)
    -ETEXTS: by Edith Wharton
        The House of Mirth (1905)
        Ethan Frome  By Edith Wharton  (1911)
    -ETEXTS: of Contemporary Reviews of Wharton's Works from the University of Virginia E-Text Center
    -TEACHING GUIDE: Edith Wharton (1862-1937)  Contributing Editor: Elizabeth Ammons
    -ESSAY: Edith Wharton's World: Portraits of People and Places (Stephen May, The Bee)
    -ESSAY: The New York That Wharton Turned Into Art (MICHAEL FRANK, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: In Search of Edith Wharton  (BARBARA SHOUP, NY Times)
    -ESSAY:  Summers in an Age of Innocence: In France With Edith Wharton  (Leon Edel, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Streetscapes: Edith Wharton; In 'The Age of Innocence,' Fiction Was Not Truth (CHRISTOPHER GRAY, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Wharton and the House of Scribner: The Novelist as a Pain in the Neck (Marc Aronson, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: Filming Edith Wharton's World: You Were How You Ate (JIM KOCH, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: Elizabeth Hardwick: Mrs. Wharton in New York, NY Review of Books
        Edith Wharton: Novels (The House of Mirth, The Reef, The Custom of the Country, The Age of Innocence)
        The Mother's Recompense by Edith Wharton
        Old New York: False Dawn (The 'Forties), The Old Maid (The 'Fifties), The Spark (The 'Sixties), New Year's Day (The 'Seventies) by Edith Wharton
        "Bunner Sisters" in Madame de Treymes and Others by Edith Wharton
        Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
        Edith Wharton: A Biography by R.W.B. Lewis
        Portrait of Edith Wharton by Percy Lubbock
    -REVIEW: Gabriele Annan: A Night at the Opera, NY Review of Books
        'Fast and Loose' and 'The Buccaneers' by Edith Wharton
        The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton and completed by Marion Mainwaring
        The Age of Innocence directed by Martin Scorsese, screenplay by Jay Cocks, and Martin Scorsese
        The Age of Innocence: A Portrait of the Film Based on the Novel by Edith Wharton by Martin Scorsese and Jay Cocks
        The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton and introduction by R.W.B. Lewis
    -REVIEW: of THE BUCCANEERS By Edith Wharton. Completed by Marion Mainwaring (Wendy Steiner, NY Times Book Review)
      -REVIEW: of A Feast of Words: The Triumph of Edith Wharton by Cynthia Griffin Wolff  Edith Wharton's Secret (Karl Miller, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: Irvin Ehrenpreis: The Rescue of Edith Wharton, NY Review of Books
        Edith Wharton: A Biography by R.W.B. Lewis
    -REVIEW: Eleanor Clark: "Angel of Devastation", NY Review of Books
        The Two Lives of Edith Wharton by Grace Kellogg
        Edith Wharton and Henry James: The Story of Their Friendship by Millicent Bell
        Edith Wharton 1862-1937 by Olivia Coolidge
        The Edith Wharton Reader selected with an Introduction by Louis Auchincloss
        The Reef by Edith Wharton and Introduction by Louis Auchincloss
    -REVIEW: Marius Bewley: Mrs. Wharton's Mask, NY Review of Books
        A Blackward Glance: The Autobiography of Edith Wharton Introduction by Louis Auchincloss
        Summer by Edith Wharton
        Old New York by Edith Wharton
    -REVIEW: of  The Stories of Edith Wharton Selected and Introduced by Anita Brookner (Michiko Kakutani , NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Letters of Edith Wharton Edited by R. W. B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis  (Michiko Kakutani , NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of NO GIFTS FROM CHANCE A Biography of Edith Wharton. By Shari Benstock (Greg Johnson, NY times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of EDITH WHARTON An Extraordinary Life. By Eleanor Dwight (Angeline Goreau, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of HENRY JAMES AND EDITH WHARTON Letters: 1900-1915. Edited by Lyall H. Powers (Maggie Paley, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of HENRY JAMES AND EDITH WHARTON Letters: 1900-1915. Edited by Lyall H. Powers   (Michiko Kakutani , NY Times)

    -REVIEW: of Ethan Frome (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times)
    -REVIEW: of Ethan Frome (Rita Kempley,  Washington Post Staff Writer)
    -REVIEW: of Ethan Frome (A Film Review by James Berardinelli)

    -REVIEW: Helen Vendler: Feminism and Literature, NY Review of Books
        Beyond Feminist Aesthetics: Feminist Literature and Social Change by Rita Felski
        Women, Class, and the Feminist Imagination: A Socialist-Feminist Reader edited by Karen V. Hansen and Ilene J. Philipson
        Feminism/Postmodernism edited and with an introduction by Linda J. Nicholson
        Women Writers of the Seventeenth Century edited by Katharina M. Wilson and Frank J. Warnke
        Eighteenth-Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology edited by Roger Lonsdale
        Hamlet's Mother and Other Women by Carolyn G. Heilbrun
        No Man's Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century Vol. I, The War of the Words Vol. II,
        Sexchanges by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar
        Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia
    -ESSAY:  Listening for the Scratch of a Pen (SUZANNE BERNE, NY Times)


Thanks, fixed it.

- oj

- Jun-01-2003, 16:03


Ethan Frome was written by Edith Wharton--not Rebecca West. Gasp

- Dorothy Turk

- Jun-01-2003, 15:43