Of the characters in Edith Wharton's novel, Ethan Frome, Ethan Frome is the most intriguing and profound. His characteristics and mannerisms make the reader sympathize with his pathetic existence and also feel his loneliness and exclusion from society. "He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe.and I had the sense that his loneliness was not merely the result of his personal plight.but had in it.the profound accumulated cold of many Starkfield winters"(5). Ethan, being a resident of the sleepy town of Starkfield, was a product of his environment, and lived his life in complete moral isolation, fearing change and clinging to routine.
The series of misfortunes that were laid upon Ethan, as well as the morose chill of his hometown make it easy to sympathize with him. Being a fatherless boy and growing up in a destitute family with a mother who could do nothing to better the family's financial situation, Ethan's life is a shining example of what a person strives not to become. "Something in his past history, or in his present way of living, had apparently driven him too deeply into himself for any casual impulse to drive him back to his kind"(6). Though he had positive attributes and was not unfriendly, his introvertedness and frozen state of mind made people curious about him and the reasons behind his silence and reserve. .
Ethan's melancholiness is due to the simple fact that he married the wrong woman. When his mother's "illness" took over, Zeena, his eventual wife, seemed almost angelic when she came to help out with his mother. Without thinking about it, Ethan married her basing his decision solely out of a sense of commitment and compensation for her assistance. After they were married the lovely angel he once thought her to be, became a nauseating and repulsive nuisance and the once pleasant sweet nothings she bestowed upon his ear became detestable noise and querulous racket.