Character Sketch of Ethan Frome



“Guess he’s been in Starkfield too many winters. Most of the smart ones get away” (6). That, said by Harmon Gow, was definitely how Ethan Frome could be described. Too many winters in Starkfield had taken its toll on Ethan, and it was obvious to see. Ethan, “the ruin of a man” (3), just hadn’t gotten out of Starkfield in time. Now, as the narrator related, “There was something bleak and unapproachable in his face; and he was so stiffened and grizzled I took him for an old man” (4). Ethan had clearly become a depressed individual and had been for a very long time.
Ethan was very sad man. Ethan never got to finish his studies and thought about it from time to time. Even at the beginning of the book when the narrator dropped his copy of Popular Science, it was obvious Ethan had a sad, nostalgic tone about him as he talked about the fact that he used to study in that field. Ethan was also sad that he had to come home every night to a woman who didn’t love him. Zeena was a self-absorbed woman whose only happiness came from other’s grief. The moment she left town every minute of Ethan’s life became better. The thought of Zeena even made him jump as shown in this quotation: “Ethan, a moment earlier, had felt himself on the brink of eloquence; but the mention of Zeena had paralyzed him” (84). Ethan was also sad because he couldn’t run away with Mattie and live in another place with her. This is extremely evident in this quotation: “ A moment ago he had wondered what he and Mattie were to live on when they reached the West; now he saw that he had not even the money to take her there. . . . The inexorable facts closed in on him like prison-warders handcuffing a convict. There was no way out—none” (134).
Ethan was also a very loyal and hardworking person. Except for the suicide attempt, throughout the whole book, Ethan stayed loyal to Zeena, ever humbly serving her, no matter what she said and no matter what she did. He completed all her tasks nightly and always did what he was told. He was even about to send Mattie away because she ordered him to do so! Most important, Ethan was also very loyal to his friends. When Ethan was able to lie and collect payment in advance from them to run away with Mattie, he couldn’t because he was too loyal to them. Ethan was very hardworking when it came to his chores. Not only did he work to support himself, Mattie, and Zeena, but he never stopped working around the house and harvesting the farm day in and day out.
Finally, Ethan was trapped. Ethan was trapped within his own town. Whether Ethan liked it or not, he was stuck in Starkfield for as long as he was alive. No matter how hard he tried to get away he could never leave. When he went to college, he had to return when his dad got sick. Then he had to stay to take care of his mother. Then, driven by loneliness, he asked Zeena to marry him. He would remain trapped in Starkfield like the generations before him. Ethan was also trapped in the same house for his whole life. Since his farm was not productive, Ethan only raised enough money to keep him and his companions alive. This became a long vicious cycle, from which he had no escape. Finally, Ethan was trapped most by Zeena. Ethan constantly had to devote all of his efforts, all of his money, and all of his time to Zeena. She demanded full attention from him, made him work 24/7, and spent all of their money on doctors and medication for her “complications.” Ethan thought that when he married Zeena she would be ready to head out to a big city, but it was quite the opposite. Zeena suddenly could not stand the thought of moving and refused to leave the house. Therefore, he was permanently trapped in the house and in Starkfield as long as Zeena lived.
By the end