Ethan Frome Essay

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LOVES LOST July 19, 2005 Edith Wharton’s novel, Ethan Frome, appears to be at least somewhat autobiographical. There are many similarities between Edith Wharton and the character from her novel, Ethan Frome. Both Ethan and Edith married for the wrong reasons. Neither were in love with their spouses. After his mother died, Ethan could not bear to be alone again, and therefore, asked Zeena to marry him. Edith married Edward Wharton so she would not be an old maid. Both married persons many years older than themselves. Zeena was eight years Ethan’s senior and Edward was thirteen years older than Edith. Ethan Frome was published in 1911, which means she wrote it somewhere between 1909 and 1911. During this time period Edith’s husband was becoming increasingly ill. He was in and out of mental institutions and was even abusive toward her. Kellogg states, “He picked senseless quarrels, shouted abuse and in general humiliated his wife and embarrassed their friends” (190). Referring to Edward, Kellog writes, “He was treated by a New York neurologist, Dr. Kinnicutt, for ‘nervous disorders. . . he took ‘cures,’ he had massage, he had electrical treatments” (189) A very good friend and colleague of Edith’s, James Henry, wrote that “Edith is living in hell” (Kellogg 190). He believed that separating from Edward was the only thing to save her life. By 1908, the marriage had “deteriorated until nothing of mutual fulfillment or good was left in it” (Kellogg 188). Wharton’s character, Ethan Frome, was unhappy in his marriage almost from the beginning. Soon after they were married, his wife, Zeena, became ill. It appears she was a hypochondriac, attempting to make people believe she was sicker than she was and feel sorry for her. Like Edward, she too went to many doctors and tried many cures that did not work. She would
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