Burdened by poverty and spiritually dulled by a loveless marriage to an older woman. Frome is emotionally stirred by the arrival of a youthful cousin who is employed as household help. Mattie’s presence not only brightens a gloomy house but stirs long-dormant feelings in Ethan. Their growing love for one another, discovered by an embittered wife, presages an ending to this grim tale that is both shocking and savagely ironic.
A masterwork of American literature from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Age of Innocence.
A marked departure from Edith Wharton’s usual ironic contemplation of the fashionable New York society to which she belonged, Ethan Frome is a sharply etched portrait of the simple inhabitants of a nineteenth-century New England village. The protagonist, Ethan Frome, is a man tormented by a passionate love for his ailing wife’s young cousin. Trapped by the bonds of marriage and the fear of public condemnation, he is ultimately destroyed by that which offers him the greatest chance at happiness.
Like The House of Mirth and many of Edith Wharton’s other novels, Ethan Frome centers on the power of local convention to smother the growth of the individual. Written with stark simplicity, this powerful and tragic novel has long been considered one of Wharton’s greatest works.