Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. How does Wharton use symbolism to reinforce plot development in Ethan Frome?
2. Is Ethan a strong person? Why or why not?
3. Discuss the relationship between the physical environment of Starkfield and the nature of the characters’ inner states.
Suggested Essay Topics
1. What does the presence of the unnamed “narrator” in the story’s introduction and conclusion contribute to the effect of the novel?
2. Discuss the novel’s portrayal of Zeena. Does her harshness seem realistic?
3. Examine the significance of the gravestone of Ethan Frome and Endurance his wife. How does it relate to the novel’s themes?
4. How does Wharton’s use of Ethan’s point of view to portray Mattie influence our perception of the girl? What does Wharton seem to think of her? Consider the Introduction and Conclusion along with the rest of the novel.
5. In your opinion, do Ethan, Mattie, and Zeena deserve their fates? Does the story aim to teach its readers a lesson? Which aspects of the novel make us sympathize with the characters, and which aspects seem to ask us to pass negative judgment?
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