Answer this question with regard to Ethan Frome and then answer them with respect to society at large: When is it necessary to re-invent oneself?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the central themes in Ethan Frome is the inevitability of tragedy, particularly when fate simply seems to put specific variables that work against one's best laid plans. Yet, all these typical dynamics of life can be curbed, managed, and controlled if only we choose to switch our mindset and get on with whatever changes we need to make to succeed. 

The tragic flaw of main character Ethan Frome is his character. Odd and awkward even before his accident, Ethan is indirectly characterized as a man in need of constant company; someone so scared to be alone in the barren, cold and boring Starkfield, that he prefers bad company to no company at all. 

This tragic flaw is even more ironic when the author's direct characterization of Ethan illustrates him as a man who is hungry for knowledge and even able to apply intellect into his conversation. How can someone, who is capable of understanding so much, cannot make the simplest changes to his life to make it better?

When Ethan's life begins to unravel, the circumstances did not help Ethan in any way. First, his father dies and his mother gets really ill. As a result, he leaves school and returns to Starkfield. Then, he becomes the sole caregiver of his mother. When Zeena comes to care for her, he believes that the best way to repay her is by making her his wife. All throughout this, there is no money, the farm is in dire straits, and all of these were like tentacles that would drag Ethan's life eternally in Starkfield. 

The outcome of these challenges is that now Ethan manifests three new flaws: a terrible sense of decision- making, the idea that he must drag along with circumstances, and the acceptance of a life that he hates.

This begs for the inquiry in question: When is it necessary to re-invent oneself?

Judging from what we see in Ethan, the one thing that persists throughout all his tragedies is his stubborn tendency to remain within the same mindset: I must do this, I must to that, I must take responsibility, I must be loyal to ____, etc. Where did these self-imposed behaviors take him? If anything, his inability to make himself look at his problems objectively to find better solutions made his life all the more miserable.

This is the moment when one needs to listen to life, and make correlations between the things that are happening to us and the role that we play in our own existence? 

The same thing happens with respect to society at large.

When we lead lives that are nowhere near our standard of what constitutes normalcy, adequacy, or even decency, then it is imperative that we re-invent ourselves. Nothing nor anyone can do that for us; re-invention is a tremendous responsibility that requires audacity and courage. 

Therefore, when life seems to take control of us, the best that we can do is reach within and question our attitudes. It is not accepting defeat; it is simply negotiating how much are we going to allow ourselves NOT to do to change our circumstances. This way, we regain control of our lives and realize what it is that we DO need to do to move forward. Re-inventing is not running away from ourselves. Rather, it is adapting to changes so that we can take over them instead of them taking over us.