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by Edith Wharton
Ethan Frome Epilogue Summary
(The Epilogue is told by the first-person narrator we met in the Prologue. It picks up where said Prologue lets off.) The narrator walked into the kitchen, but couldn't tell which of the two women had been talking on and in an argumentative tone. The tall, skinny woman stood up without greeting the narrator. She's finishing up with the cooking, now that Ethan is home. The other woman is very small. She was gnarled in a chair. Her hair was gray, and her eyes moved wildly, like the eyes of a person with spinal disease. The kitchen was one of the poorest the narrator had ever seen. Ethan remarked about the chill in the room, and moved to see to the fire. The woman who was cooking didn't respond. But the other woman piped up right away. She complained that Zeena had been sleeping and had almost left her to freeze to death. The narrator knew that this was the woman who had been talking before. Ethan introduces the narrator first to his wife (the one cooking) and then to the other one, Mattie Silver… Mrs. Hale (Ruth Varnum) had been very worried about the narrator and was amazed to hear he had spent the night at the Frome place. Apparently, the narrator might be the first person to have been in the house in "over twenty years" (Epilogue.23). Ethan is too proud to let his friends see what a miserable situation he has. Mrs. Varnum used to visit, awkward as it was, and even now tried to go out there twice a year. She tries to avoid going when Ethan is there. Looking at Mattie and Zeena together is bad enough without having to see Ethan with them. The narrator agreed that it wasn't pleasant to see Ethan with them. She remembers how Ethan looked before. Ruth remembers the night of the accident. Since her house was near the accident site, they brought Mattie into the room the narrator was using. Mattie was going to be one of Ruth's bridesmaids. Ruth had stayed with her until she woke. The following day rumor had it that Zeena had tried to send Mattie out of town, and that for some reason Ethan and Mattie had been sledding when they were supposed to be driving to the train. Nobody in town had any idea how Zeena felt about that situation, but after the accident she asked to have Mattie move back. From then on, the three lived there together. Zeena takes care of Mattie and Ethan. When Ethan and Mattie became injured, Zeena's health suddenly returned. It's a bad scene. Sometimes Mattie and Zeena argue, and it looks like it's killing Ethan. From what the narrator can see, it looks like all three people have horrible lives. Mrs. Hale said that Mattie almost didn't survive the crash – she wishes she hadn't. She believes that if Mattie hadn't have survived, perhaps Ethan could have found some kind of life. She thinks there isn't much difference between the dead Fromes and the living ones, except that the dead women are quiet, while the live women are not.
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