Naturalism in Ethan Frome Book Review

Naturalism in Ethan Frome
A summary and review of the novel "Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton.
# 108167 | 811 words | 1 source | MLA | 2008 | US
Published on Sep 25, 2008 in Literature (American)

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This paper looks at how Edith Wharton's novel, "Ethan Frome", is a perfect example of the literary theme of naturalism. The paper explains that naturalism is a pessimistic outlook on life in which the hero rarely succeeds and feels overwhelmed by his environment. The paper then discusses the plot and the characters of the novel and describes how the novel clearly fits the many characteristics of a naturalistic novel.

From the Paper:

"The environment and setting of Ethan Frome definitely creates a major impact on the lives of the main characters. Starkfield, the desolate Massachusetts town in which the characters inhabit, is the dreary and bleak setting of the novel. Every citizen of Starkfield appears to be affected by the depressing atmosphere and seemingly eternal winter. Frome's dilapidated farm not only serves as another example of the dreariness of the environment of Starkfield, but also sheds light on the isolation of the couple. Ethan and his wife Zeena live atop a hill on the very outskirts of town. This physical isolation from the town, and therefore society, demonstrates the emotional isolation the couple feels as well. "The snow had ceased, and a flash of watery sunlight exposed the house on the slope above us in all its plaintive ugliness. The black wraith of a deciduous creeper flapped from the porch, and the thin wooden walls, under their worn coat of paint, seemed to shiver in the wind that had risen with the ceasing of the snow (Wharton 13)." In addition to the awful condition and isolated location of the Fromes' home, the dynamics between Ethan and his wife create a negative environment as well. Neither Ethan nor his wife truly love each other and they remain married solely because divorce is simply out of the question. The tempting presence of Ethan's secret love, Mattie Silver, also adds tension to an already tense environment. Although Ethan feels overwhelmed in these many negative and dreary environments that surround his life, he feels as though he is trapped. Ethan Frome's depressing environments cause Ethan to feel overwhelmed and trapped."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. New York City: Macmillan, 1987.

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