Study Guide

Ethan Frome

by Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome, a farmer frustrated in his ambition to become an engineer or a chemist and in his marriage to a nagging, sour, sickly wife. He falls in love with his wife’s good and lovely cousin, Mattie Silver, who comes to live with them. When his wife finally drives the girl away, Ethan insists on taking her to the station. Ethan and Mattie decide to take a sleigh ride they have promised themselves and, in mutual despair over the impending separation, they resolve to kill themselves by running the sled against a tree. They are not killed, only permanently injured, and Ethan’s wife is to look after them for the rest of their lives.

Zenobia Pierce Frome (Zeena)

Zenobia Pierce Frome (Zeena), Ethan’s wife, a distant cousin who nursed his mother during a long illness. The marriage is loveless, and Zeena is sickly and nagging.

Mattie Silver

Mattie Silver, Zeena’s cousin, who comes to live with the Fromes. She returns Ethan’s love, and once when Zeena spends a night away from home, she and Ethan spend a happy evening together, not making love but sitting quietly before the fire, as Ethan imagines happily married couples do. Mattie feels that she would rather die than leave Ethan, but in the crash she suffers not death, but a permanent spine injury and must submit thereafter to being nursed by Zeena.

Ruth Varnum

Ruth Varnum and

Ned Hale

Ned Hale, a young engaged couple whom Ethan observes stealing a kiss. On his night alone with Mattie, he tells her wistfully about it; it is as close as he comes to making advances.

Ethan Frome Characters

The characterizations in Ethan Frome are simple and intense. The three main characters have been stripped of all extraneous gestures...

(The entire section is 258 words.)

Ethan Frome Character Analysis

Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome is twenty-eight years old and physically impressive at the time the events in the novel take place. A series of family crises put...

(The entire section is 473 words.)

Zenobia Frome

Zenobia (Zeena) is Ethan Frome's unhappy, malady-plagued wife. She is thirty-five at the time the events of the novel take place, and...

(The entire section is 348 words.)

Narrator

The entire story of Ethan Frome is told from the point of view of an unnamed narrator. Sent to the area in connection with an...

(The entire section is 383 words.)

Mattie Silver

Mattie Silver is a beautiful young relative of Zeena Frome's who is sent to provide help for Zeena after her father dies, leaving her...

(The entire section is 280 words.)

Other Characters

Dennis Eady
The son of Michael Eady, an ambitious Irish grocer. Dennis has a reputation for applying the same techniques his...

(The entire section is 315 words.)