Introduction Notes from Ethan Frome

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Ethan Frome Introduction

Having recently moved to Starkfield, Massachusetts, The narrator recounts the story of Ethan Frome, the hunched, frail man whose facial expression is unforgettable. The narrator recognizes "something bleak and unapproachable" in his face. Introduction, pg. 3 - 4 Harmon Gow, a townsman, informs the narrator that Ethan has looked that way since the "smash-up" almost twenty-four years ago. The narrator notices Ethan often in the post-office, as he collects his mail and pharmacy packages for Mrs. Zenobia (Zeena) Frome. He also notices that the townspeople all respect Ethan's reserve and solitude. When the narrator questions how Ethan got that way, Harmon answers that Ethan has been in Starkfield too long - he had to stay and care for his parents and then his wife, because there had not been anybody else. As Harmon says, "it's always Ethan done the caring." Introduction, pg. 7. The narrator begins to realize the significance of Harmon's words, "Guess he's been in Starkfield too many winters" Introduction, pg. 7, as he discovers the harshness and the loneliness of the winter.

Topic Tracking: Death and Isolation 1
Topic Tracking: Environment 1

The narrator has been staying with the Hales, Mr. Ned Hale and his wife, Mrs. Ruth Varnum Hale, who tells the narrator that she has known the Fromes and that they were all friends. However, the narrator senses that something about the Fromes troubles her. Harmon Gow tells the narrator that Mrs. Ned Hale had been the first person to see them smashed-up. The narrator gets his chance to meet Ethan Frome when his daily driver to the train station, Denis Eady, is unable to drive him. Harmon suggests that the narrator ask Ethan to drive him for work, as the Fromes could use the extra money. Harmon tells him that Ethan has had troubles in his family for a long time - sickness, death, and poverty.

Ethan drives the narrator to and from the train station every day, although Ethan hardly talks to him. To the narrator, Ethan "seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface...[living] in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access" Introduction, pg. 14 - 15. The narrator agrees with what Harmon had remarked to him earlier: Ethan has been in Starkfield too long.

Topic Tracking: Environment 2

The narrator attempts many times to warm up to Ethan, but never truly succeeds. When the narrator sees that Ethan has found his science book, Ethan surprises him by saying that the book included things he had not known. Ethan confuses the narrator even more when he shortly replies that he used to enjoy reading about science.

One especially snowy day, Ethan is driving the narrator from the station when the winds and the snow cause them to turn back - Ethan invites the narrator to stay at his home. The landscape of the Frome farm, and the farmhouse itself, is a bleak, cold sight to the narrator. The narrator detects the sad, wistful tone in Ethan's words as he describes how much bigger and friendlier the house had been when his father was alive. To the narrator, the "diminished dwelling [is] the image of his own shrunken body." Introduction, pg. 21. As the narrator enters the Frome house, he hears a woman's voice moaning. That night, the narrator envisions the story of Ethan Frome.

Topic Tracking: Death and Isolation 2
Topic Tracking : Environment 3

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