Fate is the development of events beyond a person's control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power. Scientific determinism is the ideology that we cannot control our fate and are impacted by our environment. Wharton reinvents the use of setting as the fundamental element in Ethan Frome. Some aspects such as the dreariness the town of Starkfield comes with are beyond Ethan's control, but he is not a victim of his life events, the characters, or his town. Ethan's fate predominantly lied in his own hands and his tragic flaw was his feeling of obligation and duty to his family members, which is what kept him from making the choice to leave them behind, therefore forging his own happiness.
Wharton illustrates Ethan to be a victim of his physical and social environment, I disagree with her and believe if he truly wanted to overcome his struggles he was capable of doing so. Wharton weaves the physical aspects of the weather and landscape so tightly among the characters' inner feelings that the two become interchangeable. The death of Ethan's parents took him away from his engineering studies and brought him home to Starkfield. Ethan's mother had her funeral in the winter and he came upon Zeena, "After the mortal silence of his long imprisonment Zeena's volubility was music in his ears." Ethan married Zeena because of the loneliness that was within him. Loneliness can be seen amongst the Fromes, which causes them to make poor decisions. Ethan could have sold the farm, and pursued his engineering dreams. .
Ethan could have moved out of Starkfield which had many barriers and into a town that would bring him prosperity and success. He worries that if he leaves Zeena, "his desertion would leave her alone and destitute." Ethan's inability to communicate his opinion and feelings is what restricted him from deciding his destiny. He is afraid to make decisions that might hurt others.