Of her twenty-five novels, Ethan Frome is the one of which Edith Wharton was most proud. In the novel, young Ethan Frome marries Zeena Pierce, who is seven years his senior, after she nurses Ethan's mother through a terminal illness. When Zeena also turns sickly, she invites her cousin Mattie Silver to live in and help with household chores. Ethan and Mattie fall in love, and Zeena, aware of their attraction, decides to send Mattie away. A desperate Ethan cannot bear the thought of letting Mattie go, but neither can he escape with her. The couple decide upon a course of action designed to ensure that they remain together, but the plan falters and all three characters are left to suffer its nightmarish consequences. Historically viewed as a high society writer or novelist of manners, Wharton is now receiving her due as an astute chronicler and critic of American life who brought literary realism to new levels and helped to usher in a new period of modernist innovation. This Broadview Edition demonstrates that Ethan Frome is not an anomaly in Wharton's career, but a natural outgrowth of her interest in the interplay of individual and society.
Ethan Frome (1911)