All of us adult Shmoopers probably remember being forced to read Ethan Frome in high school, right? But how many of us have fond memories of the experience? Exactly. Unfulfilled dreams, a broken human of a central hero, and a tragic ending—what's not to hate? Well, let's dig in and take a look.
You've got one thing going for you from the start: Ethan Frome is a quick read. But don't let that fool the students; they'll miss the intricacies of the sacrifice, the loss, and the pure sadness if they just burn right through it. And unless you read a bit of it aloud—seriously, do it!—they will also miss Wharton's real craft with language and imagery.
Ethan Frome is considered to be at about a 9th-grade level, but sometimes our wide-eyed freshmen haven't had a chance to have their hearts stomped on, to be completely manipulated, to do the wrong thing for the right reasons or the right thing for the wrong reasons, or to feel complete loss when the first love goes down the hall with someone else. Ah, the joy of high school. But it will come in time. So don't get too stressed if they miss the boat a little in recognizing the deep sadness of the whole story. We have a feeling they'll have an "aha" moment later in life.