Ethan Frome Short Summary

Ethan Frome Short Summary
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This is a book that was authored by Edith Wharton and published in 1911. Later on, it got adapted to a film that goes by the same title.

An Overview of the Book

At the age of 21, Ethan Frome gets married to his cousin Zenobia Pierce who nursed his mother before she succumbed. However, there is no love between them. Zeena has also developed the sickliness that plagued Ethan’s mother. Now Ethan has to bear with her as well as not being able to sell his farm.

However, when Zeena’s cousin Mattie Silver arrives at their home in Starkfield, Ethan falls in love with her. One day Zeena leaves to visit a doctor in a nearby town. This makes Ethan overjoyed since he could now spend time alone with Mattie. Later in the evening, he and Mattie sit and happily chat the night away. Suddenly, a cat breaks Zeena’s pickle dish, but they continue chatting. At one point during the interaction, Ethan tells Mattie about his desire to go with her on a sled ride. This was a subtle hint that he is in love with her.

The next day, Zeena’s surprise return extinguishes Ethan’s joy and prevents him from repairing the dish. To make the situation worse, Zeena claims that her doctor has advised her to stop all house chores and get a stronger helper. This was a hint that she suspected something between Mattie and Ethan.

After supper, Zeena discovers her broken dish as she reaches out for her medication. Out of infuriation, she hurls insults at Mattie. This proves that she is burning to send her away. Ethan is now in limbo due to Mattie’s impending departure. He is overburdened with having to nurse his wife as well as the abject poverty.

On the day of Mattie’s departure, Ethan insists on driving her to the station despite Zeena’s reservations. Since both are so in love with each other, they decide to take the sled ride that Ethan had earlier promised Mattie. On their first ride down the hill, they narrowly miss a tree. With Mattie overexcited, she insists on taking a second round. However, this time, they hit the tree. Both of them sustain serious injuries with Mattie suffering severe spinal damage and Ethan receiving a permanent handicap.  Now both of them have to be constantly nursed by Zeena.