.. ie are isolated from each other due to Matties injuries. The aspect of isolation portrayed through the setting and actions of the characters contributes to the establishment of Whartons Ethan Frome as a psychological novel. The characters of Ethan Frome ironically seem to crave disorder and use it as a means of security. The characters put themselves into situations that present confusion and chaos.
Zeena is a prime example of a character that is unable to face reality and uses imaginary illnesses to compensate for the things that she lacks in life, spending her life caring for others as retribution for her own personal shortcomings and insecurities. When Zeena had no one left to care for, she then came down with a series of illnesses. Zeenas absorption in her ailments, whether real or imagined, is her chosen form of physical gratification (Fedorko 64). Zeena gives herself an imaginary illness, which requires her to travel to quack doctors and buy exotic, as well as expensive, wonder drugs. Zeenas illness gives her an escape and some have even proposed that it gives her a sense of identity.
Zeena naturally chooses to be sick because sickness promises adventure in its possible complications, sudden cures, and relapses (McDowell 74). In this aspect of needing chaos, Ethan is no better than Zeena. When Ethans mother becomes ill, Zeena arrives at the Frome farm to nurse her back to health. After Mrs. Frome dies, Ethan marries Zeena out of a sense of obligation and appreciation. After the death of both of his parents, Ethan could have started his life over, concentrating on engineering, his passion.
Because of his obvious insecurities, he clung to Zeena for comfort and support. Ethan needed something in his life to stop him from becoming his own person because of his insecurities. Another example of Ethans need for chaos is his haphazard romance with Mattie. Had Ethan carefully planned out their escape or at the least waited a few months longer, he and Mattie could have lived happily ever after. He was close to over coming his perverse need for chaos, but then his subconscious surfaced again and caused his plans to be ruined. The characters could have simply waited until spring to escape, and gone west as Ethan original plan stated, his life would have been near perfect, but his insecurities stopped him.
He lacked the confidence and faith in his actions to take a stand. Ethan is also crucially fearful of change and responsibility (Springer 46). He was able to have security in making plans, and the relief in knowing that he would never follow through. He abdicated his free will to Zeena when he failed to assert his wants and needs and let Mattie decide on their double suicide plan. Ethans inaction was part of the cause for his unhappiness.
Indeed as he passes the headstones that mark generations of Fromes in the family graveyard, they seem to mock him. We never got away- how should you? (Worth 66). Ethan needed to have the chaos in his life so that he could avoid the possibility of failure, needing to relinquish his ability to make decisions because of his lack of self-confidence in his actions. The weakness of Ethans spirit was a direct correlation to the isolation and helplessness that he was left with after his mothers death. Although he tried, he was not able to fully over come his feelings of loss and in turn project his insecurities in this manor. (Worth 44).
Ethan and Zeenas need for chaos established Ethan Frome as a psychological novel due to the insight of Wharton on the human psyche. Mattie Silver, in ever aspect, represents every individuals need for hope in Ethan Frome. She is the faint glimmer of light that Ethan holds on to that makes his life bearable. The way that Mattie is described is evidence of this aura of hope that she projects. Mattie [her last name is] of course, is Silver- twinkling, promising, sparkling (Springer 94). Ethan looks to Mattie for love that he has never felt; his mother was ill most of her life and his father was too preoccupied for Ethan. Zeenas unusual type of love is shown in her need to heal illness.
Ethan can talk to Mattie; in fact she is the object of his greatest release He can share his awe for the beauty of his surroundings, educate her about the heavens, and relieve himself of emotions that had hitherto been bottled up as a silent ache (Springer 52). Mattie represents for Ethan a perfect life, but his insecurities stop him from attaining this ideal. Whartons characterization of Mattie and her influence on Ethan more clearly shows Ethans flaws and insecurities. The characters offer a psychological look into the characters perceptions of hope and success. Because of Edith Whartons excellent use of imagery and description, Ethan Frome is a masterfully written example of a psychological novel.
By just the use of descriptive setting, Wharton sets the tone and mental conditions of the characters. She shows general truths about the human condition when she describes the characters insecurities and inabilities to overcome these obstacles. The characterization shows a depth of understanding that helps the reader to better understand the characters motives and actions. The novel is rich in analysis of the psyche and this is projected into the minds and actions of the characters. Edith Whartons Ethan Frome is a timeless classic that subtly and creatively lets readers understand the hidden depths of the human mind through psychological aspects present in the novel.
Bibliography Works Cited Fedorko, Kathy. Gender and the Gothic in the Fiction of Edith Wharton. Tuscaloosa: .University of Alabama Press, 1995. Goodwyn, Janet Patricia. Edith Wharton: Traveler in the Land of Letters. New York: .St.
Martins Press, 1990. McDowell, Margaret. Edith Wharton: Revised Edition. Boston: G.K. Hall and .Company, 1991 Springer, Marlene. Ethan Frome: A Nightmare of Need.
New York: Twayne .Publishers, 1993. Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. New York: Penguin Group, 1993. Worth, Richard. Edith Wharton. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994. Psychology.