Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ethan Frome

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Ethan Frome

Final Essay

Mrs. Wharton used the writing technique of foreshadowing constantly throughout the book. She used it to prepare the reader for the tragic “smash-up” at the end. The foreshadowing she used was not subtle and was seen during many profound parts in the book. This foreshadowing contributes immensely to the book.

The first clue about the wreck was; “He’s looked that way ever since the smash-up; and that’s twenty four years ago come next February.” This foreshadowing lets the reader know that Ethan has been in an accident and that it was a number of years ago, it does not however, give any details about the wreck.

During the body of the book, Ethan’s wreck was not mentioned again, but there were still hints. “Ned Hale and Ruth Varnum came just as near running into the big elm at the bottom. We were all sure they were killed.” The details of Ethan’s wreck were also hinted at.

All the foreshadowing throughout the book leads the reader to believe that Ethan will run away with Mattie, but that something horrific will happen. This does not play out. Zeena finds out about the dish, and is furious. She then tells Ethan about the doctor and how she requires a hired girl. Zeena wants Mattie to be sent away. After Ethan’s responsibility to Zeena makes him stay, he decides to take Mattie back to town. On the way to town, their love for each other is finally expressed, so they decide to have one last moment together on the sled hill before Mattie leaves. Ethan and Mattie then choose to commit suicide by running the sled into the elm. “So’t we’d never have to leave each other any more.”  This is the wreck the book has been foreshadowing, not an accident, but deliberate.

The foreshadowing in the book was alluding to something tragic, but what actually happens was surprising. The book foreshadows a tragic accident that cripples Ethan, and possible kills Mattie, not a deliberate act chosen by two new lovers. After the wreck, however, Ethan is injured, Mattie is crippled, and Zeena overcomes her “sickness” to help take care of her adulterer husband and his “new girl”. The foreshadowing in the book was very good; it leads the reader in one direction, but then takes a completely different one. Foreshadowing is responsible for the tightly knit structure of Ethan Frome.


Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. New York Dover Publications, Inc. 11

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