The novel "Ethan Frome", written by Edith Wharton in 1911 depicts the life of the living dead; the life of Ethan Frome. Indeed, Frome's existence was not glamorous, and many would say he is to blame, but he is a man who is, and unfortunately always had been, controlled, castrated and confined to a life of misery. Through the use of various themes, such as love, freedom, and morality, Wharton presents a character who lives a life of quiet desperation. .
Set in the cold, desolate town of Starkfield, Massachusetts, the narrator introduces us to Ethan Frome, a man who had been injured in a horrific "smash-up" 23 years ago. Although he is described as "the most striking figure in Starkfield,"in reality, he was "the ruin of a man," with a "careless, powerful lookin spite of a lameness checking each step like the jerk of a chain." The first chapter consists of mostly exposition, giving us insight into Ethan's history. As we enter the proceeding chapter, we meet young Ethan, 23 years in the past, waiting outside of a church dance for his wife's cousin. Mattie Silver arrives in Starkfield to assist Ethan in caring for Zeena as her health declines. With her grace, beauty and vigor, Mattie embodies everything that Zeena is not, becoming Ethan's motive of escape from confinement.
Ethan is a weak man, weighed down by indecisiveness and moral responsibility. Once his father "went soft in the brain," and his "mother got queer," "Somebody had to stay and care for the folks." He feels as though everyone must come before him. Once the train was built bypassing Starkfield, Ethan's mother fell ill due to the silence and lack of interaction with the outside world. We see much of this in ethan as well, the fear of silence. .
Ethan married Zeena because he was afraid of silence, just as his mother was. The Fromes appear to suffer from a fear of loneliness, which causes them to make poor decisions; Ethans passivity of all the problems around him being the poorest decision.