Ethan Frome & Selected Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Ethan Frome & Selected Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593080907
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 03/01/2004
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 38,991
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Born into a prosperous New York family, Edith Wharton (1862-1937) wrote more than 15 novels, including The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, and other esteemed books. She was distinguished for her work in the First World War and was the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Letters from Yale University. She died in France at the age of 75.

Date of Birth:

January 24, 1862

Date of Death:

August 11, 1937

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, France

Education:

Educated privately in New York and Europe

Read an Excerpt

From Kent P. Ljungquist's Introduction to Ethan Frome and Selected Stories

Wharton tended to measure her literary achievements against those of male writers; in her introduction, she further distinguished her efforts from previous treatments of New England by discounting her role as a mere recorder of the more superficial or external features of her setting. She thus emphasized the steps in the construction of Ethan Frome—that is, her role as a conscious literary craftsman. She noted that her initial conception derived from an academic exercise intended to polish her proficiency in the French language. Developed in Paris in 1907, the French sketch of "Ethan Frome" contained three characters (the male was named Hart) and achieved a length that encompassed two scenes, or vignettes, that survived in the published version. The fragment contained a triangular relationship among a husband, his sick wife, and the wife's niece, to whom the "Ethan-character" is attracted; but it lacked the structure that would give focus as well as depth to the narrative. Wharton eventually hit upon the device of a storyteller, but she did not choose one steeped in the lore and history of New England. Rather than a character like the herbalist and healer Mrs. Todd in Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), a native authority on the region's legends and values, Wharton chose someone from outside New England to narrate the story-a looker-on, an observer.

In her desire for "roundness"—Wharton seemed to resort recurrently to the terminology of the "plastic arts" or visual media—she would supplement the narrator's perspective with those of her minor characters. The fresh, acute perspective derived from the narrator's growing insight and awareness would compensate for what he lacked in inside background knowledge of the Frome household. While the device of an observer might lend "an air of artificiality" to a tale of sophisticated characters, Wharton noted, this defect might be mitigated if the narrator brought a sophisticated perspective to a tale of simple people. Her narrator would thus serve as a kind of intermediary between the reticent and reserved villagers and Wharton's readers, giving "voice" to characters nearly inarticulate or resigned to silence.

Wharton's use of an observer eases the reader's entry into Ethan's story. In the opening of the novel the narrator recaptures his first arresting glimpse of Wharton's central character, when he had been struck by Frome's physiognomy and bearing. Harmon Gow, who had driven the stage between Starkfield and other towns in the region's pre-trolley days, provides further background on Frome. From Gow the narrator learns of Ethan's age and of his reluctance to escape Starkfield because of obligations to care for his failing parents. The narrator also hears not only Gow's chilling comment on Ethan's endurance—"Ethan'll likely touch a hundred"—but also his opinion that Ethan's stay in Starkfield constituted a kind of imprisonment: "Guess he's been in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away". The narrator's interview of Gow develops the tale only "as far as his [Gow's] mental and moral reach permitted", and he hopes that the more educated, sophisticated Mrs. Ned Hale, with whom he is staying, will provide greater insight. He cannot cut through her reserve and reticence, however, even though she has more firsthand knowledge of the aftermath of the accident that scarred Frome's forehead. Implying a suffering too great for words, her only comment is: "It was awful".

The narrator infers that he must piece together Ethan's story from different sources, and that consequently each retelling will be a little bit different. The meaning of the story, he infers, will be found even in gaps or silences after he has accumulated a succession of hints, suggestions, and clues that surround Frome. For all the narrator's curiosity about the Frome household, this technique gives his telling an elliptical effect, a sense that much has been left unsaid or not fully articulated. When the winter snows prevent the narrator's return to Starkfield after Frome volunteers to drive him to his business appointment, he is granted a night's shelter at the farm. Enveloped by the severe storm, the narrator experiences a "soft universal diffusion more confusing than the gusts and eddies of the morning." In the "formless night" his disorientation temporarily intensifies, and "even [Ethan's] sense of direction, and the bay's homing instinct, finally ceased to serve". The narrator's perplexity and bewilderment imply a need to reorient himself, to jolt himself, so to speak, into a perspective that demands clearer sight and more acute insight. It is at this point that Wharton effects the transition back to the period of Ethan's youth. Although some critics have quarreled with the subjective nature of her narrator's perceptions, there seems little doubt that Wharton intended his narrative to be more than one version of events among others. Accordingly, it is a "vision"; in her 1922 introduction she noted: "Only the narrator has scope to see it all, to resolve it back into simplicity, and to put it in its rightful place among his larger categories."

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Ethan Frome & Selected Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 118 reviews.
wordsilove More than 1 year ago
The ending was a real kicker. I enjoyed this book and I'm glad I read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ethan Frome was, as I said, a good read. I like how the author used a frame to tell this story--it seems as though you are listening in on something. The novel is not that long, and quite engrossing for the majority of the novel so it goes by fast. Some might find Ethan's thoughts a bit melodramatic, but his thoughts made the novel more realistic. The only reason I would not give Ethan Frome five stars is that the ending did not seem to fit the context of the novel. So, to me, the ending was a bit of a disappointment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The main story read in this book is of course Ethan Frome and as far as im concerned it is just another version of Romeo and Juliet but the writing was actually superior to shakespears in my opinion
Guest More than 1 year ago
As my headline says, I believe this to be the best novel by an American author. Wharton is a forgotten literary star as far as I'm concerned.
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
Not exactly you're typical Sunday afternoon reading, but that's exactly what it became for me. Ethan Frome is quite the depressing little ditty. It starts in the "present" day. The author arrives at Ethan Frome's home and hears his story. Ethan takes the author 24 years back. Ethan is a long suffering martyr. He ended his studies to take care of his parents, married an invalid, and lives a generally joy-less life. Then, one day, a light enters his life in the form of a poor relation. He falls in love with her and begins to dream. But his wife knows him well and manipulates him back into martyrdom. He makes a reckless decision which leads to a surprising ending.
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Nickelini on LibraryThing 19 days ago
In addition to the novella Ethan Frome, this collection includes the stories "The Pretext," "Afterward," "The Legend," and "Xingu." I have to admit to being quite bored by "the Pretext." Luckily, the other stories were all great. Wharton has a gift for language, and a knack for manipulating situations and story lines to achieve interesting results. The last two stories, "the Legend" and "Xingu," were unexpectedly funny. "Xingu" is a must-read for anyone who has ever attended a book club meeting.
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PinkChi More than 1 year ago
A fast read. Characters are well developed and are strong. The ending is quite unexpected for those who are not already familiar with this classic.
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