| Quote #1
"Most of the smart ones get away." But if that were the case, how could any combination of obstacles have hindered the flight of a man like Ethan Frome? (Prologue. 18)
Maybe Ethan never got away because he is intelligent, but not practical. It is also because the accumulated isolation of his life prevents him from seeing beyond it. He has no real reason to believe he can have happiness, and has basically given up all hope. He feels love for Mattie, but is really just going through the motions, unwilling to take a chance on happiness with her.
| Quote #2
"Guess he's been in Starkfield too many winters." (Prologue.9)
The novella makes a strong argument that something in the very land is holding Ethan back. That's why we think that Starkfield is, among other things, a symbol of anything that can hold a person back from self expression and enjoyment of life.
| Quote #3
To him, who was never gay but in her presence, her gaiety seemed plain proof of indifference. (1.13)
Ethan's happiness is so repressed that he can only let things out when he's around Mattie. Because he is currently keeping himself from expressing his love to her, he can't ask about her love for him, so of course he will feel jealous and isolated from her when he sees her frolicking with Denis.