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Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome


by Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome Theme of Love

Ethan Frome is a tragic love story. Every romantic moment is fraught with tension and anxiety. Why? Because the characters are stuck in a bitter love triangle from which escape is impossible. Edith Wharton's fresh take on this timeless theme puts love on an unreachable pedestal. It shows how a lack of love can twist and warp human beings almost beyond recognition. In the four days leading up to a suicide pact between Ethan and Mattie Silver, his would-be lover, these two lonely characters get a glimpse of love, friendship, and companionship. And then it all falls apart. Yet, they remain together (with Ethan's wife Zeena) even 24 years later. Do you think any spark of their former love remains?

Questions About Love

  1. Did Ethan ever love Zeena?
  2. Are Ethan and Mattie still in love at the end of the story?
  3. Is the love story convincing? Why or why not?
  4. Does Mattie love Ethan? Does Ethan love her? How do you know? Does the novella give a definition of love? If so, what is it?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The most loving thing Ethan could have done was run away with Mattie; by failing to carry out this loving act, he betrays everyone.

By taking care of Mattie after her accident, Zeena shows that she loves her.

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