In Ethan Frome, what comparison does Edith Wharton use to show that Mattie brings warmth into an otherwise barren household?

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lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In contrast to the frozen setting of the Frome's household, Mattie Silver is characterized from her first appearance as an active, warm and affectionate person. Her arrival is compared to "the lighting of a fire on a cold hearth" (page 26) and, in contrast to the general stagnation and immobilism of the other characters, she is described as jumping down from her train with her bundles. On the following page, the narrator describes several moments in which he supposes Frome felt closer to Mattie which link her to light and the sun: "the cold red of sunset behind winter hills", "the flight of cloud-flocks over slopes of golden stubble, or the intensely blue shadows of hemlocks on sunlit snow" (27). Mattie's characterization continues with verbs of movements such as "whirl" and a comparison to "a window that has caught the sunset" (28).These examples show how Matties is described in opposition to the stiffness and emotional frigidity that characterizes Ethan and Zeena's lives.

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Ethan Frome

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