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by Edith Wharton
Ethan Frome Timeline and Summary
Fifty-two-year-old Ethan is seen by the narrator at the post-office. When the narrator asks him for rides to the train-station, Ethan agrees. On a snowy night, Ethan invites the narrator to stay at his house. (We are now thrown into Ethan's past, twenty-four years before.) Ethan is walking to pick Mattie up from the church dance. After seeing her dance with Denis Eady Ethan becomes jealous. After she gives Denis the boot, Ethan surprises Mattie and they walk home together. They have a wonderful time. When Ethan and Mattie arrive home, Ethan discovers that the key to the front door is missing. Zeena had moved it, and now unlocks the door for the two. The next morning Ethan learns that Zeena will be away for the night visiting a new doctor. He and Mattie enjoy a romantic evening together in her absence. When Mattie accidentally breaks Zeena's prize pickle jar, Ethan puts the pieces together and plans to glue it before Zeena finds out. They go to bed in their own rooms. Everything goes wrong for Ethan the next day, and by the time he gets home with the glue Zeena has already returned. She tells Ethan that Mattie has to leave. Ethan can't seem to get her to change her mind. When Zeena discovers the broken dish, Ethan looses all hope that she might change her mind. Ethan decides to leave Zeena and run away with Mattie. He writes Zeena a letter. Then he realizes he doesn't have money for the train. He thinks that if he leaves Zeena, she will suffer. The next day he decides to try one last thing to get the money to leave. He tries to borrow it from the Hales, claiming it would be used for Zeena's new hired girl. Mrs. Hale is kind to him, and he decides not to go through with the lie, and not abandon Zeena. He does insist on taking Mattie to the train-station, and he follows the scenic route to get there. The two finally admit their love to each other. They decide to take a sleigh ride in the dark. When Mattie suggests that they purposely try to hit the elm so they will both die, Ethan agrees. They hit the tree and Ethan wakes up and finds Mattie's still live body near him. (The story fast forwards back to the present – twenty four years later.) When Ethan and the narrator enter the Frome house, Ethan introduces the narrator to the two women in the kitchen waiting for hi. Zeena is cooking. Mattie is complaining about Zeena, and has a spinal injury that seems to keep her mostly confined to a chair.