| Quote #1
Even then he was the most striking figure in Starkfield, though he was but the ruin of a man. (Prologue.36)
For a man to be a ruin, he must have been something great before, right? Right away the narrator sees that Ethan was a man with promise, and that somewhere along the way that promise was lost.
| Quote #2
"Guess he's been in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away." (Prologue.9)
Starkfield is always shown as a trap, a place to either escape from or get stuck in. The place is certainly a fertile breeding ground for hopes and dreams, but it also seems to have a super-glue quality to it.
| Quote #3
"Somebody had to stay and care for the folks. There warn't ever anybody but Ethan. Fust his father-then his mother-then his wife." (Prologue.11)
This is a big part of what makes Ethan a tragic hero. He couldn't abandon anyone in pain, and as a result he hurts himself and everyone else around him. This kind of loyalty interferes with all his dreams.