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by Edith Wharton
Ethan Frome Chapter 8 Summary
Ethan has a little make-shift study that he hadn't used in a while be because the heater that previously heated it was given to Mattie for her room. When Zeena was safely sleeping, Ethan headed to that room. He and Mattie hadn't talked after the scene, but when he'd come in from doing his final chores he found a note left by Mattie before she went to bed. It said, "Don't trouble, Ethan." This was his first note ever from Mattie. The note makes him feel closer to her. Wrestling with his mind, Ethan decides he can have happiness. He doesn't have to live this way. There was this guy who left his wife for a younger woman. By leaving her the farm, the man had made sure the left wife would have something to live on, and moved West. Ethan had met the couple and seen their cute little baby. He decides to write Zeena a letter and then leave with Mattie the next day. As he writes he begins to have doubts. The farm isn't worth anything to sell, and there is no way Zeena could do any of the work on it. Oh well, he thinks. She can go live with her relatives and he will eventually pay her alimony. He finds a newspaper so he can look at the cost of a trip West. Crushed, Ethan learns that he can't even afford the cheapest ticket, and nobody would loan him any money. He cries and falls asleep thinking of how he and Mattie were supposed to sled tonight. When he wakes up, he realizes it's Mattie's final day on the farm. Mattie is waiting for him. She'd heard him leave the house last night and had not heard him return. They move to the kitchen. Ethan touches Mattie and says, "I don't want you should trouble either" (8.24). She agrees not to. Ethan warns her not to let Zeena get to her today. When Jotham comes in he tells Ethan that Zeena asked him to drive Mattie away. Ethan says that he will be the one to drive Mattie. When Zeena comes in she tells Mattie she's arranged for her trunk to be transported. Mattie thanks her. Determined to give it another shot, Ethan decides to use Zeena's illness as an excuse to get Andrew Hale to loan him some money. Mrs. Hale is very sweet to him, and tells him she feels bad that he's had such a hard life. He hadn't experienced that level of kindness in some time. This increased his confidence in getting the loan. But he can't go through with it. He sees himself as a man about to swindle two elderly people who believe in him, and then abandon a sick woman. Ethan walks back home.
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