“It is a miserable state of mind to have few things to desire, and many things to fear”. This quote,
by Francis bacon, reigns true in the novel Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Both the main protagonist, Ethan Frome, and his friend
Mattie, are characters that support this quote. Ethan is unhappy in his marriage that he cannot get out of, and Mattie is
in love with a man she can never be with, and both of them have great consequences to pay for these feelings should Zeena,
Ethan’s wife, discover them.
Ethan Frome lives in the town of Starkfield, Massachusetts , with his wife Zeena. Zeena is a hypochondriac, and is always
under the impression that she is ill. Ethan must take care of her, and cannot leave her for extended periods of time. Sadly,
Ethan doesn’t seem to be in love with Zeena any longer. In fact, he has fallen in love with Mattie, a friend of
his. Unfortunately, he cannot leave Zeena, for she thinks she requires constant attention incase her health began to decline.
She doesn’t have anyone else to take care of her, which places Ethan in a sticky position. He cannot leave Zeena
to be with Mattie, which is what he truly wants to do. He cannot run off with Mattie, because he can’t afford to
move and buy a new house and, essentially, create a new life. He must stay in Starkfield, taking care of Zeena.
Mattie is also another character who has little to desire and much to fear. She is in love with Ethan, though they cannot
be together. Ethan cannot afford to live with her and must take care of Zeena. Too many things stand between her and Ethan.
This, of course, does not stop her from loving him. She eventually formulates a plan to commit suicide with Ethan by sledding
into a tree, so they can be together in the afterlife. Unfortunately, this plan backfires and they do not perish, but they
are seriously injured, to the point where they would have been better off dead. Ironically, Mattie must take care of both
Ethan and Mattie. Their only chance of being together has been smashed, and they are left injured for life. Both Ethan and
Mattie have little to live for at this point, and the real reason they want to live is now an impossibility.
Ethan and Mattie are two characters that show that when a person has little to desire and much to fear, life can be very
depressing. Both their personal lives and their injuries will keep them from being together. This story, unfortunately, cannot