Ethan Frome Essay

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Edith Wharton portrays Ethan Frome as a ‘stoic’ sufferer who lives, “part of the mute melancholy landscape, as an incarnation of its frozen woe”. Wharton presents the reader with a character whose mental condition corrodes due to his inability to express his emotions, which creates a sense of Ethan’s cold demeanour as being the source of his psychological deterioration. The narrator suggests that the protagonist “lived in moral isolation,” with his physical appearance looking “bleak” and “unapproachable”. For years Ethan has existed in a state of despair, and has longed for change and freedom, however changing his external environment would be deemed impossible for a man with his stoic character traits. Kenneth Bernard comments that, “Throughout the book Frome recognises his futility and accepts it rather than trying to fight his way out of it.” An example of Bernard’s theory can be seen when Mattie is sewing and instead of him touching her hand he touches the end of the piece of fabric as a substitute for his intimacy. Wharton presents the reader with a protagonist who has a character type of a stoic trope who is unable to express what he feels physically. In Henry James’s the Turn of the Screw, in order for the reader to trust that the source of the governess’ psychological deterioration is the result of her genuine sightings of apparitions, we first have to accept that she is a rational and believable narrator. The notion, however, that the apparitions are fragmentations of the governess neurotic mind stems from her dubious behaviour. In the opening sentence of the novella, the governess calls attention to her introspective nature, as the reader is constantly reminded of her questionable state of mind as she repeatedly highlights that she is “doubtful”. The nautical imagery that pervades The Turning of the Screw serves as a symbol for the governess’ mental
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