Notes on Ethan Frome Themes

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Ethan Frome Topic Tracking: Love

Chapter 1

Love 1: Mattie is the only person with whom Ethan can share his love of nature. She takes as much pleasure in the sight of the landscape as he does. To Ethan, Mattie understands and comprehends his appreciation of nature and she shares many similar interests. He starts to believe that because of their many shared interests, his feelings for her may be reciprocated.

Love 2: Ethan tries to make up for Mattie's inefficient manner in managing household chores by doing some of her work at night, so that Zeena does not catch him helping Mattie out. By helping Mattie, Ethan's actions protect Mattie from Zeena's scolding. He does not want to give Zeena a reason for throwing her out because of inefficiency.

Chapter 2

Love 3: Ethan wishes that he could express to Mattie exactly how much he cares for her and loves her, but he does not know how. All the years spent in quiet solitude and loneliness have made him a taciturn, reserved man. His relationship with Zeena has made him even more lonely than before; their marriage is not loving and tender at all. Ethan feels a passion for Mattie that he has never felt before.

Chapter 4

Love 4: Without Zeena present, Ethan feels that life on the farm is actually very lively and blissful. Living under Zeena's cold and reserved control has made both Ethan and Mattie mindful of their actions and words; now that they are free from Zeena, they are able to enjoy each other's company freely and openly. Ethan feels especially happy; it is the first night that he and Mattie have ever been alone since she came to live with them on the farm.

Chapter 5

Love 5: When Ethan and Mattie sit by the fire, they are positioned in the exact way that Ethan has dreamed of for so long: the two of them, sitting by the fire, in their cozy little house. Ethan has never felt such happiness and passion. They are genuinely enjoying each other's company and they engage in a friendly, easy conversation - one not riddled with accusation and complaint, like conversations with his wife.

Love 6: Fueled by their intimate conversation, Ethan is overcome with a desire to touch and kiss Mattie. Slowly kissing the sewing material that she had been working on all night, Ethan feels as if the sewing material is indeed an extension of Mattie herself. Ethan and Mattie's peaceful dream world is shattered when reality suddenly sinks in. Zeena will be returning home the next day. Their dreamlike world comes to an end when Ethan realizes that he has not even touched Mattie's hand, much less kissed her.

Chapter 6

Love 7: Ethan envisions the night he spent with Mattie alone as part of the future, part of his destiny: he believes that he does have a chance of being in a relationship with Mattie. That night proved that he and Mattie do care for one another, and that they will find a way to be with each other despite Zeena's interference.

Chapter 7

Love 8: Zeena's decision to throw Mattie out of their home enrages Ethan. He cannot believe that this cruel, bitter, heartless woman would actually have the audacity to take away from him the one person for whom he cares, the one person Zeena knows that he cares for more than anybody else. Ethan feels as if Mattie is slipping away from his grasp and that he cannot do anything to help her or to save her.

Chapter 8

Love 9: Ethan schemes to run away with Mattie, rather than have Zeena throw Mattie out. Knowing that he cannot live without Mattie in his life, he believes that running away is the ideal solution. He remembers that another married couple had divorced, and the man ran away with the woman he truly loved, and his wife made a bundle of money from the farm she had sold. Running away with Mattie would be a dream come true for Ethan; he would be with her forever.

Love 10: On the morning of Mattie's departure, Ethan looks at the surrounding landscape and immediately connects the nature scenes with Mattie. Everywhere he looks, he sees a fond memory of the two of them. Unlike Zeena, who treats Mattie coldly, Ethan asks her is she needs any help with her things. Ethan is willing to do whatever Mattie needs until she leaves Starkfield.

Love 11: Ethan cannot help but think endlessly about Mattie when he looks at the landscape surrounding him. He loves her too much to let her go, and he decides that he must do everything in his power to prevent Mattie from leaving Starkfield - and out of his life. He knows that he could not bear to watch Mattie get on the train leaving town forever.

Chapter 9

Love 12: At the sledding hill, Ethan and Mattie share a deep kiss; they realize that they cannot be separated. The separation would be too painful for either of them to bear; they must be together. Their love is powerful enough to make them consider dying for each other.

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