I found Ethan Frome to be a heartbreaking tale of despair and anguish. Each of the main characters had their own plight, entwining smaller, subtler topics into the overall theme of the novel. Ethan Frome, the title character, constantly feuds with himself over his own feelings, especially in the area of love. Oftentimes he finds himself torn between his love for another and his devotion to his wife. Ethan's sickly wife, Zeena Frome, has her own battles with diseases, poverty, and her relationship with her distant husband. Mattie Silver, alone and unwanted, can only find refuge in the arms of Ethan, the only person who has ever shown her kindness. .
Several themes are revealed in Ethan Frome. The most obvious, the universal theme of morality is extremely important to the development of the novel. In Ethan Frome, Wharton situates the morals and devotion of marriage against true love and sinful compassion. In every chapter of this book, morality is a major contributor, whether it is Ethan's controversy with himself over his love and his wife, or the villagers" strong sense of morality in the gossiped involved with the telling of this "legend". Another .
The literary elements of Ethan Frome are quite extraordinary. For example Edith Wharton uses several forms of imagery and symbolism to develop the plot, and the setting of the story is one of the most important elements of the entire novel. The environmental descriptions in the story makes a reader feel a part of the wintry village of Starkfield, which is a symbol within itself. When one takes a closer look at the name of the sleepy winter village, Starkfield is derived from stark, meaning bleak or barren, and field, or countryside. The entire novel takes place in this tiny town, and its surrounding landscape, in the seemingly endless winter. Winter, a season symbolizing death and frost, is perhaps the only time of year that this story could have taken place.