On a bleak New England farm, a taciturn young man has resigned himself to a life of grim endurance. Bound by circumstance to a woman he can not love, Ethan Frome is haunted by a past of lot possibilities until his wifes orphaned cousin, Mattie Silver, arrives and he is tempted to make one final, desperate effort to escape his fate. With this as a backdrop, Edith Wharton begins her tragic story.
Throughout he book Edith Wharton uses imagery and symbolism to show how a man stuck between a he desperately loves but can not have, and a wife that he can never love and quite possibly never loved him. From the start Wharton describes the depressing landscape of a winter in Starkfield, Massachusetts: When the storms of February had pitched their white tents about the devoted village and the wild cavalry of March winds had charged sown their support; I began to understand why Starkfield emerged from its six months siege like a starved garrison capitulating without quarter. p5)
Wharton then goes on to describe the marriage of Ethan top Zeena and their relationship together. How an older woman like Zenobia Pierce Frome could crush the hopes and dreams of a young man: He was too young, too strong, too full of the sap of living, to submit so easily to the destruction of his hopes. Must he wear out all his years at the side of a bitter querulous woman?
Other possibilities had been in him, possibilities sacrificed, one by one, to Zeenas narrow-mindedness and ignorance. (p65) Notice how the writer uses imagery to show how strong Ethans feelings are. The symbol of life and death is almost rampant throughout Whartons novella. In chapter four, Ethan passes by his family gravestones: He passed by the graves on the knoll and turned his head to glance at one of the older grave stones, which interested him deeply as a boy because it bore his name.