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Ethan Frome - The Original Classic Edition

Overview

Edith Wharton filled her novels with a feeling of ruin, passion and restriction. People can fall in love, but rarely do things turn out well.

But but few of even her books can evoke the feeling of Ethan Frome, whick packs plenty of emotion, vibrancy and regrets into a short novella. While the claustrophobic feeling doesnt suit her writing well, she still spins a beautiful, horrifying story of a man facing a life without hope or joy.

It begins ...

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Ethan Frome - The Original Classic Edition

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Overview

Edith Wharton filled her novels with a feeling of ruin, passion and restriction. People can fall in love, but rarely do things turn out well.

But but few of even her books can evoke the feeling of Ethan Frome, whick packs plenty of emotion, vibrancy and regrets into a short novella. While the claustrophobic feeling doesnt suit her writing well, she still spins a beautiful, horrifying story of a man facing a life without hope or joy.

It begins nearly a quarter of a century after the events of the novel, with an unnamed narrator watching middle-aged, crippled Ethan Frome drag himself to the post-office. He becomes interested in Fromes tragic past, and hears out his story.

Ethan Frome once hoped to live an urban, educated life, but ended up trapped in a bleak New England town with a hypochondriac wife, Zeena, whom he didnt love. But then his wifes cousin Mattie arrives, a bright young girl who understands Ethan far better than his wife ever tried to. Unsurprisingly, he begins to fall in love with her, but still feels an obligation to his wife.

But then Zeena threatens to send Mattie away and hire a new housekeeper, threatening the one bright spot in Ethans dour life. Now Ethan must either rebel against the morals and strictures of his small village, or live out his life lonely. But when he and Mattie try for a third option, their affair ends in tragedy.

Wharton was always at her best when she wrote about societys strictures, morals, and love that defies that. But rather than the opulent backdrop of wealthy New York, here the setting is a bleak, snowy New England town, appropriately named Starkfield. Its a good reflection of Ethan Fromes life, and a good illustration of how the poor can be trapped.

Even when she describes a ruin of a man in a cold, distant town, Wharton spins beautiful prose (the night was so transparent that the white house-fronts between the elms looked gray against the snow) and eloquent symbolism, like the shattered pickle dish. Theres only minimal dialogue -- most of what the characters think and feel is kept inside.

Instead she piles on the atmosphere, and increases the tension between the three main characters, as attraction and responsibility pull Ethan in two directions. It all finally climaxes in the disaster hinted at in the first chapter, which is as beautifully written and wistful as it is tragic.

If the book has a flaw, its the incredibly small cast -- mainly just the main love triangle. Ethans not a strong or decisive man, but his desperation and loneliness are absolutely heartbreaking, as well as his final fate. Mattie seems more like a symbol of the life he wants that a full-fledged person, and Zeena is annoying and whiny up until the end, when we see a different side of her personality. Not a stereotypical shrew.

Ethan Frome is a true tragedy -- as beautifully written as it is, its still Whartons description of how a man merely survives instead of living, hopeless and devastated.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781486149377
  • Publisher: Emereo Pty Ltd
  • Publication date: 6/15/2012
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 599,001
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 9.69 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Edith Wharton
One of America's most important novelists, Edith Wharton was a refined, relentless chronicler of the Gilded Age and its social mores. Along with close friend Henry James, she helped define literature at the turn of the 20th century, even as she wrote classic nonfiction on travel, decorating and her own life.

Biography

Edith Newbold Jones was born January 24, 1862, into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses." The youngest of three children, Edith spent her early years touring Europe with her parents and, upon the family's return to the United States, enjoyed a privileged childhood in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. Edith's creativity and talent soon became obvious: By the age of eighteen she had written a novella, (as well as witty reviews of it) and published poetry in the Atlantic Monthly.

After a failed engagement, Edith married a wealthy sportsman, Edward Wharton. Despite similar backgrounds and a shared taste for travel, the marriage was not a success. Many of Wharton's novels chronicle unhappy marriages, in which the demands of love and vocation often conflict with the expectations of society. Wharton's first major novel, The House of Mirth, published in 1905, enjoyed considerable Literary Success. Ethan Frome appeared six years later, solidifying Wharton's reputation as an important novelist. Often in the company of her close friend, Henry James, Wharton mingled with some of the most famous writers and artists of the day, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, André Gide, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and Jack London.

In 1913 Edith divorced Edward. She lived mostly in France for the remainder of her life. When World War I broke out, she organized hostels for refugees, worked as a fund-raiser, and wrote for American publications from battlefield frontlines. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her courage and distinguished work.

The Age of Innocence, a novel about New York in the 1870s, earned Wharton the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921 -- the first time the award had been bestowed upon a woman. Wharton traveled throughout Europe to encourage young authors. She also continued to write, lying in her bed every morning, as she had always done, dropping each newly penned page on the floor to be collected and arranged when she was finished. Wharton suffered a stroke and died on August 11, 1937. She is buried in the American Cemetery in Versailles, France.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Age of Innocence.

Good To Know

Upon the publication of The House of Mirth in 1905, Wharton became an instant celebrity, and the the book was an instant bestseller, with 80,000 copies ordered from Scribner's six weeks after its release.

Wharton had a great fondness for dogs, and owned several throughout her life.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Edith Newbold Jones Wharton (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 24, 1862
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      August 11, 1937
    2. Place of Death:
      Saint-Brice-sous-ForĂȘt, France

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