Ethan Frome Is a Victim of Circumstance

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Ethan, while he is flawed, is also a victim of circumstance The tiny town of Starkfield, Massachusetts, formed the backdrop for Edith Wharton’s novel Ethan Frome, an intense novel that moves the ill-starred trio of main characters towards their tragic destinies. Of the main characters, the eponymous Ethan Frome is flawed, both physically and in lack of ability to communicate with everybody. Undoubtedly, however, misfortune and circumstance riddled Ethan’s world: crushing his dreams of becoming an engineer and restricting him to a life in Starkfield. Described through the eyes of the omniscient narrator, Ethan was a man whose “lameness checked each step like a jerk of a chain” and who seldom interacted with the townspeople. Highlighted within the opening two pages, Ethan’s flaws (both physical and of character) made him quite a distinguishable character in Starkfield and whilst everyone “gave him a greeting,” his taciturnity was respected and it was only on “rare occasions” that anyone ever stopped him for a word. This, however, was not out of ill-manners on Ethan’s part; merely an inability to communicate and express himself to others, a trait that made him seemingly deeply flawed. To the new arrival at least, Ethan’s failings must have made it seem as if the man was more of a victim of himself than any other physical problem or evil twist of fate. Circumstance and fate, however, were the reason why Ethan was still in Starkfield in the first place. Harmon noted that “most of the smart ones get away [from Starkfield]” and this was indeed true for Ethan as well. Before the cruelty of circumstance saw his father go “soft” in the head and his mother become severely ill, Ethan had left Starkfield for Florida, in pursuit of his dreams to study engineering. The situation, however, demanded that someone “had to stay and care for the folks” and thus Ethan was

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