How Ethan Frome's financial troubles cost him his happiness.
Ethan Frome, written by New England author Edith Wharton, is a novel of tragedy, hopelessness, and misery. Ethan Frome, living on a Massachusetts farm in the late 1800's when the novel begins is a man already torn by grief. Ethan's parents became very sick and died around his twentieth year after giving away most of the money they had, and Ethan decided to marry his mother's cousin who came to take care of her because he felt obliged to her. Ethan's wife Zenobia soon became sickly, and became anything but a joy in Ethan's life. Zenobia soon brought in her homeless cousin as a hand around the house, and Ethan soon fell in love. Ethan thought of many, and actually made a few attempts to get away from Zeena and be with Mattie, the last of which crippled them both. Ethan had a few chances to get away, but he never had enough money. Ethan's father giving away substantial amounts of money before his death, Ethan's inability to leave Starkfield with Zeena before she decided she became sickly, and his futile attempt to elope with Mattie are all examples of how Ethan's lack of money took away any chance of having him lead a life of true happiness.
One of the first factors that contributed to Ethan's financial strain was death of both parents when he was around age twenty. While working in the fields Ethan's father "went soft in the brain, and gave out money like bible texts afore he died" (5). Giving away money was not something the Frome family could afford, but Ethan's father was sick and unintentionally threw away money that would eventually lead Ethan into severe financial troubles that would take him much pain and labor to get out of. After Ethan's father died his mother became sick as well and "dragged along for years as weak as a baby"(5). Ethan could not take care of his mother himself, so he brought in Zeena a married her as he felt it was an obligation.