Ethan Frome Questions and Answers
by Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome book cover
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In the beginning of Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, the narrator is trying to piece a story together. What impact does this have on the story?

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"I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story". This is the beginning of the "Author's Introductory Note" to Ethan Frome, which constitutes the narrative frame of the novel. The passage clearly establishes the narrator as an individual who is neither part nor a witness of the events narrated in the novel. Thus the narratorĀ must rely on other people's accounts or offer an interpretation of them to tell the story of Ethan Frome. Significantly the introductory note ends with the narrator invited to Frome's house one night, a meeting during which he "began to put together this vision of [Frome's] story". The narrative that follows, therefore, cannot be defined as reliable as it is the narrator's own personal interpretation and "vision" of what has happened. The story takes on a more open and ambiguous nature, where the only events that we can take as the truth are those contained in the narrative frame.

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