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Old 12-27-2012, 12:22 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by issybird View Post
Knowing what's coming rewards the reread, adding shadow to the narrative as it progresses and breaks your heart even more than the first-time shocker, at least for me.
I don't think I could do a reread, but your point is beautifully made.
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Old 12-27-2012, 01:00 PM   #17
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For evocation of time and place, Ethan Frome is among the best; a tour de force from a New York society woman. I'm a transplant to New England and even now, I look around me in midwinter and wonder how they stood it, in more primitive times. The dark, the cold, the snow.... With furnace and electric light and snowplows and everything else that makes it bearable, I still hate winter here. And even given how depressing it must have been, so long as there was enough food stored away, perhaps the inhabitants looked forward to winter and its time of enforced idleness, a surcease from the relentless labor needed to scratch a living from rocky soil with a short growing season. I know what I've said can equally apply to other northern spots, and even more so, but Wharton got it right.

Knowing what's coming rewards the reread, adding shadow to the narrative as it progresses and breaks your heart even more than the first-time shocker, at least for me. I can pity them all, but I only like Ethan, even though he was the agent of his ultimate misfortune and ruined Mattie's life as well. His suffering redeems himself over and over, but in my opinion, it also begs the question of whether redemption serves a purpose.
You hate New England winters? You should try wintering in Wisconsin. Reading about how Wisconsin was first settled I can only admire what tough resilient people the first settlers must have been. Living in small wooden houses with no insulation and heated only by a wood stove. Umm, and in the really cold months (about 4-5 months per year) a trip out to an outhouse whenever nature called.

I got a lot more out of it on the second read as well. Especially out of the closing conversation between the narrator and Mrs. Hale.

Since I am posting again I can include this passage:

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Ethan was aware that, in regard to the important question of surgical intervention, the female opinion of the neighbourhood was divided, some glorying in the prestige conferred by operations while others shunned them as indelicate. Ethan, from motives of economy, had always been glad that Zeena was of the latter faction.

In the agitation caused by the gravity of her announcement he sought a consolatory short cut. “What do you know about this doctor anyway? Nobody ever told you that before.”

He saw his blunder before she could take it up: she wanted sympathy, not consolation.

“I didn’t need to have anybody tell me I was losing ground every day. Everybody but you could see it. And everybody in Bettsbridge knows about Dr. Buck. He has his office in Worcester, and comes over once a fortnight to Shadd’s Falls and Bettsbridge for consultations. Eliza Spears was wasting away with kidney trouble before she went to him, and now she’s up and around, and singing in the choir.”

“Well, I’m glad of that. You must do just what he tells you,” Ethan answered sympathetically.
So true to life in any time or place.
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Old 12-27-2012, 01:52 PM   #18
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You hate New England winters? You should try wintering in Wisconsin.
No, thank you! *shudder* *shiver*

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Reading about how Wisconsin was first settled I can only admire what tough resilient people the first settlers must have been. Living in small wooden houses with no insulation and heated only by a wood stove.
At least they had stoves, and not just an open hearth. Buncha pantywaists.
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Old 12-27-2012, 07:33 PM   #19
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snow.. His suffering redeems himself over and over, but in my opinion, it also begs the question of whether redemption serves a purpose.
Yes. That is such a perceptive insight--and a rather frightening one too.
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Old 12-28-2012, 05:59 AM   #20
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I have to admit, before I came here I have never heard of Ethan Frome or Edith Wharton. As most of you, I loved the writing. Depressing story, but beautiful to read!
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Old 12-28-2012, 10:04 AM   #21
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Knowing what's coming rewards the reread, adding shadow to the narrative as it progresses and breaks your heart even more than the first-time shocker, at least for me. I can pity them all, but I only like Ethan, even though he was the agent of his ultimate misfortune and ruined Mattie's life as well. His suffering redeems himself over and over, but in my opinion, it also begs the question of whether redemption serves a purpose.
Gorgeously put!
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Old 01-03-2013, 10:06 AM   #22
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The story loses all sense of realty when they try to kill themselves on a sled. It just goes into left field. That's not reality to think they could kill themselves that way. The story has now moved from New England to La-La Land.

The most depressing part of the story is realizing that you've read it that far and come to the sledding incident where it totally tosses the reader out of the story with something so far from reality.
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:39 PM   #23
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Oh the story was splendid! Wharton did a great job crafting this particular novel. I read this book for school and we are having a test over it when we return to school from winter break.. It contained carefully painted biblical allusions. It seemed to me that the whole story alluded to the Adam and Eve anecdote, the red pickle bowl being the apple. After Zeena instructed Mattie(Eve) not to touch her precious belongings(the apple), Mattie disobeyed and even brought Ethan(Adam) in to the whole conspiracy. Later on when Zeena found out, She "banished" Mattie from the house(which was Eden for Mattie) like God banished Adam and Eve from Eden. But then after the smash up incident, she took her back in(like God is forgiving). And the sledding "incident"(which happened right outside of the church for a reason) should have killed Mattie and Ethan but they didn't die because the afterward suffering was God's intended punishment for their "sin", adultery.
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:42 PM   #24
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Arrow Maybe a Deeper Meaning?

Edith Wharton fashioned the novel after her own life-story. It is much like an autobiography. Her husband was a very sick man and much older than her(like Zeena). Their marriage was not a happy one. Like Ethan, Edith had an earlier lover, Morton Fullerton(Mattie).Like Ethan, Edith was convinced tht, due to the failure of her marriage, she was a prisoner of life. She created the setting from her own observations while living in Lenox Massachusetts and she paints it as a frozen prison. Even the name that she gives to the town betrays her tone towards the characters. Stark means rigid in or as if in death, so Starkfield is death trap.

Last edited by W. Rabbit; 01-03-2013 at 02:48 PM. Reason: realized that i doubled a paragraph..
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:45 PM   #25
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I don't know about the allusions, but as I said up-thread (despite Jon's dislike), the story is beautifully written and was well worth my time. And I've picked a copy from the MR Library of the Complete Works of Edith Wharton and I'll be trying a few more over the coming year.
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Old 01-03-2013, 03:02 PM   #26
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New England

[QUOTE=jgaiser;2365924]I don't know about the allusions


Yeah. i mean i thought that Wharton drew her story around that illusion because: first of all, the setting is in New England. That implies a lot on its own. And also Wharton made sure to mention the congregational church now and then(randomly) to draw emphasis to its importance in the story. During the story's time, church was still an important part of New England life, the center of everything in fact. All the "lively" stuff happens there(like the dance and parties). Everywhere else is practically dull and stark if i may say. You can have a different interpretation for it, but Wharton did put stress on the church and the conventional New England ways at the time.
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