Notes on Ethan Frome Themes

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Ethan Frome Topic Tracking: Colors

Chapter 2

Colors 1: Ethan knows to look for Mattie's bright red scarf to find her in the crowd of people dancing. The scarf is cheerful and vibrant, characteristics that embody Mattie. He is jealous that she is dancing with Denis Eady. Athan is very much attracted to and in love with Mattie.

Colors 2: Mattie, a vision of red with her bright red cheeks, lips, and scarf, is a deep contrast to the sullen and cold-looking Zeena. That Mattie is always associated with the color red shows that she is a passionate, animated, and emotional person, unlike Zeena, who is usually stoic and bitter. Ethan admires and loves that Mattie is such a warm and giving person.

Chapter 3

Colors 3: Ethan remembers how pale and "colourless" Mattie had looked when she had first arrived in Starkfield. Her appearance has changed since she and Ethan began having feelings for each other; Mattie's passionate, emotional nature is what Ethan loves the most about her.

Colors 4: The contrast between Mattie and Zeena is clear when Ethan notices Zeena's appearance on the day she leaves town. Wearing a stiff brown traveling dress and an unwelcome look on her face, Zeena exudes a cold demeanor. Her face is unusually pale and blood-drawn, and the gaze on her face lets Ethan know that she suspects he does not have a valid reason to not take her to the train station.

Chapter 4

Colors 5: When Mattie places the red ribbon in her hair, Ethan thinks that the bright color in her dark, lustrous hair gives her a more womanly and vibrant quality. The color stands out in her hair and highlights her attractive features and body. Ethan is even more attracted to the warm and passionate Mattie.

Colors 6: The cat accidentally breaks Zeena's red pickle-dish, which Mattie had gotten out from Zeena's private cabinet to use for her and Ethan's supper. The breaking of the pickle-dish parallels the breaking of Ethan and Zeena's relationship, and the disintegration of Mattie's passionate, emotional nature.

Chapter 5

Colors 7: Ethan brings up the topic of Ned Hale and Ruth Varnum kissing, which makes Mattie blush. She and Ethan are shyly approaching the subject of their own relationship, but neither makes any move to voice their feelings. For the first time, Ethan feels that Mattie's blush guards her feelings, rather than letting him know her true thoughts. He attributes Mattie's blush to the fact that they are under Zeena's presence; she is unable to acknowledge her true feelings. Although Zeena is not physically present, they both feel that the cold and bitter woman is there with them. That Zeena is still Ethan's wife is very much in their minds.

Colors 8: Mattie blushes again, when Ethan begs her not to mention the fact that Zeena dislikes her so much. Unlike the previous moment when he had made her blush, Mattie's blush rises slowly because of Ethan's heated insistence. Mattie distances herself from Ethan, who notices her slipping away from him and tries to comfort her.

Chapter 8

Colors 9: When Mattie visits Ethan in his study, he notices that the bright red scarf, which usually adds to her cheerful nature, is unable to light up her sad face. Mattie is so distraught over Zeena discovering the broken pickle-dish and her knowledge of Ethan's and Mattie's feelings for one another that she looks pale and sallow.

Chapter 9

Colors 10: Ethan recalls how pretty Mattie had looked in her pink hat during a church picnic by a lake, and he tells her so. Mattie accepts his compliment, but she also reciprocates her pleasure in receiving it. For the first time, Ethan and Mattie have acknowledged their love for one another, and their desire to be with one another.

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