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Ethan Frome

Wharton's winter ain't no wonderland.

Ethan Frome is the kind of book designed to make you feel better on your worst day—but not because it's cheery or chipper or even the slightest bit optimistic. No, it will make you feel better because you will never be as miserable as the characters in this book. And who isn't a fan of schaudenfreude?

This short course on Edith Wharton's slim novel is filled to the brim with interactive assignments, readings, and intros to walk you through all the depressing goodness that is Ethan Frome. Over the course of 15 lessons, you'll

  • analyze the ways in which the frame narrative in Ethan Frome enhances the main narrative.
  • think about how setting can play just as big a role as a character in a novel.
  • close read the symbols of Ethan Frome; a pickle dish has never seemed so deep. 
  • examine the character of Ethan Frome himself as a tragic hero and a villain.
  • get your doctor on, crafting original arguments about the function of illness in Ethan Frome.

Suggestion: don't start reading on your flight to New England.

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. Ethan Frome

It's a short novel, but it sure isn't short on meaning. In this unit, you'll close read Ethan Frome, digging into themes, symbols, characters...and why it feels so good to watch other people suffer.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 12: Zeena-Phobia

Baron Munchausen, possibly Zeena's great-great-great Granddaddy.

Zeena, Zeena, Zeena. She gets no love. Not from Ethan, not from Mattie, and certainly not from the narrator, who describes her voice as a "flat whine," talks about how prematurely aged she is, and mentions how everyone wants to punch her in the face.

Well, maybe not the last one exactly, but the spirit sure is there.

Zeena is a weird one, for sure. She comes into the Frome house as a nurse, and as soon as she's married, she flops over to being a patient. Then, when Mattie and Ethan come back all banged up from their accident, she becomes the nurse again for (we assume) the next few decades.

What gives, Zeena?

  • Course Length: 3 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12
  • Course Type: Short Course
  • Category:
    • English
    • Literature
    • High School

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