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Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome


by Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome Chapter 5 Summary

  • The meal is over.
  • Mattie cleans up and Ethan does the final chores.
  • The snow is coming down hard.
  • The scene is just as he imagined it. Mattie by the fire, sewing, and he is now puffing the pipe, stretching the hard-working legs.
  • Ethan can't see Mattie where she's sitting so he suggests that she sit in Zeena's chair.
  • Actually Mattie gets up and sits in the chair.
  • This turns out to a bad idea. It's almost as if as if Mattie turns into Zeena.
  • Mattie also seems to feel uncomfortable about this arrangement and goes back to her initial position.
  • Ethan steals glances at her from his spot.
  • The cat takes over Zeena's chair.
  • As the quiet sets in they relax and talk.
  • Ethan reminds Mattie that they had a coasting date for tonight.
  • Because there is no moon, they decide to postpone sledding for the following evening. Mattie is blushing furiously.
  • Ethan asks her if she would be too afraid to sled with him on a moonless night.
  • She says she's scared of nothing.
  • He says that he is actually afraid. Sledding on a moonless night is a good way to die.
  • In the dark there is no way to see the killer elm tree.
  • Ethan decides to tell Mattie that he saw Ruth being kissed.
  • All night he'd wanted to tell her, but regret was instant. It sounded rough and rude, and triggered more intense blushing from Mattie.
  • She guesses quietly that he'd seen Ruth and Ned.
  • Ethan had hoped he might get a kiss of his own that way, though he would have settled for the touch of her hand.
  • His comments seem to have had the opposite effect.
  • Ethan thinks he's unusually shy about these kinds of things.
  • When they were in the open air together they were more free than now that they're indoors.
  • Mattie and Ethan talk about Ned and Ruth, and how they are planning a summer wedding.
  • Ethan then suggests that Mattie will be the next to wed.
  • She wants to know why he keeps bringing that up.
  • He says it's to help the reality of it sink in for him.
  • Could it also be because Zeena has a problem with me? Mattie wants to know.
  • Ethan seems irritated by her question and asks what she's talking about.
  • She brings up Zeena's behavior the night before.
  • Well, Ethan says he can't imagine why Zeena might have a problem with Mattie.
  • This isn't reassuring to Mattie, and wants to know if Zeena said anything to Ethan about her.
  • Ethan tries to reassure Mattie that Zeena has not said anything. He then begs her, tenderly, to change the topic.
  • More blushing.
  • The cat jumps out of Zeena's chair in pursuit of a mouse.
  • On the coffee table rests the end of the piece of cloth Mattie is sewing.
  • Ethan touches it and they seem to have some kind of psychic communication through the cloth.
  • An image of Zeena back in her chair the next day captures Ethan.
  • Mattie seems to pick up his anxiety over this.
  • So Ethan, in a daze, kisses the end of the piece of cloth, with his eyes closed.
  • When he opens his eyes Mattie is rolling up the piece of cloth and preparing to leave the room.
  • Together they bring the geranium flowers away from the windows so they don't get frozen in the night.
  • Ethan's candle in her hand, Mattie goes up stairs, telling him good night.
  • The sound of Mattie's door closing reminds Ethan that "he had not even touched her hand" (5.41).

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