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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