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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

From the very beginning of Ethan Frome we know that Starkfield (the novella's fictional Massachusetts town) is the land of broken dreams, lost hopes, and empty plans. As the tragic story unfolds, w...

Transformation

The characters in Ethan Frome are particularly marked by the physical transformations they undergo. These physical changes give us hints of depths of the inner transformations taking place. Through...

Technology and Modernization

Set around the late 1890s to early 1900s, Ethan Frome's fictional Starkfield, Massachusetts has been as good as forgotten by the spinning word of planes, trains, and automobiles. In fact, the exten...

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...

Education

Ethan Frome's title character wants education almost as much as he wants love. His fine mind can't reach its potential because he's never been able to concentrate on its development. He sacrificed...

Morality and Ethics

Ethan Frome is concerned with personal morality and puts forth a number of complicated moral quandaries. For example, should Ethan Frome pursue true love and run away with Mattie, or should he stic...

Manipulation

There is lots of manipulation going on in Ethan Frome. The more desperate the characters become, the more they try to manipulate each other. Often, it's not clear exactly who is manipulating whom,...

Freedom and Confinement

Unfortunately, in Ethan Frome, freedom is always just out of reach. Isolated from technology, the inhabitants of Starkfield, Massachusetts, can barely make enough to stay alive, much less leave, or...
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