Study Guide

Ethan Frome Chapter 9

By Edith Wharton

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Chapter 9

  • Back in the kitchen, Ethan finds Zeena reading a book about kidney problems.
  • Mattie apparently is moving her trunk.
  • Appalled that she is moving the heavy thing without manly aid, Ethan jumps up to go help her.
  • He finds her crying in her room.
  • She thought that Ethan wasn't going to see her off.
  • Zeena calls to them that it's time for Mattie to be headed on with her ride.
  • Ethan whispers in Mattie's ear that he plans to drive her.
  • Zeena tells him he can't, and he defies her.
  • They fight but he has his way.
  • In a fury he readies the horse and hitches it to the sleigh.
  • Ethan finds Mattie in his study.
  • Zeena has gone to bed without saying a word to Mattie.
  • Smiling, Ethan tells Mattie they can enjoy their drive together.
  • Ethan takes the scenic route, and heads to Shadow Pond, where Ethan and Mattie had once shared a picnic lunch together.
  • She had asked him to a town picnic; he had refused, but later joined her.
  • They try to drink in ever moment with each other, and Ethan tries to discuss her future.
  • Again, her situation is really desperate. She has no one else who loves her in the world.
  • (In the early 1900s, a single woman with no money was a hard thing to be.)
  • Ethan breaks down, telling her that he had tried to find a way to run away with her but couldn't.
  • Mattie shows him that she found the letter he started to write to Zeena.
  • Begging, Ethan asks Mattie if she would have run away with him if he'd asked her to.
  • She admits she's fantasized about the very thing, almost since the first time she met him.
  • Mattie asks Ethan to write to her, but he thinks writing would be a terribly poor substitute for the real thing.
  • He asks if she will get married.
  • She tells him he's the only one for her.
  • Soon they are near the sledding spot.
  • It's dark, but they decide to take a sled before they go to the train station.
  • After the successful sled, Mattie begs Ethan for another ride.
  • This time, she doesn't want them to make it back up to the top of the hill.
  • Ethan accuses her of insanity.
  • She says that the real insanity will come if she is separated from Ethan.
  • Her sobs are intense and Ethan hold her and touches her hair.
  • They kiss.
  • The power of her suggestion to sled to the death takes him over.
  • His horse is crying hungrily in the distance but he beckons Mattie to the sled.
  • Ethan sits in the back of the sled in the steering position, and Mattie sits in the front seat.
  • Suddenly, Ethan has an idea and they switch seats.
  • (Now Ethan can't see to steer the sled.)
  • Mattie wraps her arms around him…
  • Then woooooosh again, and then –
  • They kiss.
  • And then – they crash into the big elm tree.
  • Ethan is trying to look at the stars.
  • He's suddenly very tired.
  • A small animal is making noise near him.
  • Overwhelmed by a desire to ease the little animal's pain, he fumbles around in the snow until he feels something hair.
  • It's hair. Mattie's hair. He realizes that Mattie is the little animal making noise.
  • She says his name.
  • He says her name back and tells her he though he had hit the elm, and that he needs to feed the horse…
  • (Actually, similarly to what we find at the end of the Prologue, Chapter 9 ends with an ellipsis, followed by an apostrophe, followed by forty-three ellipses. If you want to know more about this strange punctuation, visit our discussion of "Writing Style.")
  • Now on to the Epilogue.

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