In the story Ethan Frome there are two women who play very important roles but are two totally different characters. Zeena is the wife of Ethan, and Mattie is the cousin of Zeena and who Ethan begins to fall for. In this essay there will be a contrast between physical and psychological differences between Mattie and Zeena and the dramatic changes in each of them after the "smash-up.".
Zeena's physical characteristics are shown as a young woman who has aged much faster than most women her age. "She (Zeena) sat opposite the window and the pale light reflected from the banks of snow made her face look more than usually drawn and bloodless, sharpened the three parallel creases between the ear and cheek, and drew querulous lines from her thin nose to the corners of her mouth. Though she was but seven years her husband's senior, and he was only twenty-eight, she was already an old woman." (pg 47). This shows that Zeena's physical appearance has gone downhill and the attraction that Ethan once had for Zeena's outer complexion does not exist anymore. She can only blame herself for diminishing her young beauty into elderly unpleasantness by believing her health was more drained than it really was, and being rude and obnoxious to the people around her. .
Mattie's appearance however, would be the exact opposite from Zeena, she would be described as a beautiful young woman. " Then, striking upward, it threw a lustrous fleck on her lips, edged her eyes with velvet shade, and laid a milky whiteness above the black curve of her brows." (pg 59). Well this totally explains why Ethan is falling for Mattie so quickly. How could Ethan not fall for something of such elegance that lives within his own home? Mattie has maintained her young beauty because unlike Zeena, she does not over-react to small things, she just continues to live and joyful and peaceful life. Mattie also does not let her own troubles affect the way that she treats the people around her, which Zeena also fails to do.