Ethan Frome: Failure


Ethan Frome, the main character in the book entitled Ethan Frome,
by Edith Wharton, has many complex problems going on at the same
time. His family has died and he has a wife that is continually
sick, and the only form of happiness he has is from his wife\'s
cousin Mattie. This, however, at times proves to be hard because
of Ethan\'s wifes interference. Nothing seems to be going in
Ethan\'s favor. The main theme of the book is failure, and this is
shown through marrying his wife, not being able to stand up to
his wife, and his involvement concerning the "smash up."

The first way failure is shown in the book is through the
marriage of Ethan and his wife. He married her because she had
tried to help his mother recover from an illness, and once his
mother died he could not bear the thought of living in the house
alone. His wife was seven years his senior and always seemed to
have some kind of illness. It seemed all she ever did was
complain, and he resented this because it stifled his growing
soul. Since his wife was continuously ill, and her cousin needed
a place to stay, they took her in to help around the house. Ethan
took an immediate propensity to her cousin, Mattie, because she
brought a bright light upon his dismal day. He seemed to have
found someone that cared for him, was always happy and could
share his youth, unlike his sickly wife who always nagged him. He
longed to be with Mattie, however he had loyalty to his wife.
Being married to the wrong person proved to be Ethan\'s first
failure.

Ethan\'s second failure was not being able to stand up against his
wife. His wife claimed that a new doctor said that she was
extremely sick, and needed more help around the house. She told
him without any discussion that Mattie had to go. Ethan could not
find the words to make her alter her decision. His wife also
decided that Mattie had to leave the next day itself and Ethan
could not do anything about it. It was stated in the book that
his wife had the upper hand in the house by the line "Now she
[his wife] had mastered him [Ethan] and he obeyed her." Ethan
just could not find the right things to say and it was because of
his failure of not being able to stand up to his wife, he was
going to lose the only thing that made him happy.

Ethan\'s last failure was the way he modified his and Mattie\'s
lives regarding the "smash up." He so desperately wanted to run
away with Mattie, but he could not because his practical sense
told him it was not feasible to do so. Mattie wanted so
desperately to be with Ethan, that she suggested in order to stay
together forever, was to die together. It was Ethan\'s job to
steer into the tree with the sled so that it looked like an
accidental death instead of suicide. Instead of running square
into the tree, he did not hit the tree right and it did not kill
either of them. Instead it just injured them , and these injuries
stayed with them forever. In this way Ethan had his last failure
in not exceeding to die with his love, instead he had to live
with the guilt from his wife, the injured Mattie, and broken
dreams.

In these three ways, of marrying the wrong person, not being able
to stand up to his wife, and incidents that come from the smash
up, proves that the main theme of the book is failure. It seemed
that everything Ethan tried to do, worked against his favor. With
all the incidents that happened it seemed inevitable that his
life would always be a string of failure.