In Ethan Frome, what are the major internal and external conflicts?

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As what has been termed a "study in frustration, loneliness, and moral responsibility," Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome presents several conflicts for Ethan Frome, both internal and external:

External conflicts

  • Ethan's first major conflict derives from his desire to be an engineer and leave Starkfield for a city where he can go to museums and places where his intellectual needs are met.
  • As a Naturalistic novel, the environment of Ethan mirrors his conditions and the harsh winter and milieu in which Ethan lives conflict with his youthful desire to leave as well as his attempts to leave the farm for which...

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udonbutterfly | Student

One of the major internal conflicts would be Ethan has an unrelenting desire to be with Mattie however his great sense of responsibility continues to hold him back from acting on it. And example of this would be the scene where him and Mattie are sitting by the fire place and you can definitely feel the tension that is happening between them. However the Zeena's cat that sits in her chair reminds Ethan of his responsibility as a husband and holds back from acting on his desire except for placing a kiss on Zeena's cloth that she was working on.

One of the major eternal conflicts would be when Zeena decides that it's time for Mattie to leave and puts her out on the streets. Ethan tries so hard to keep Mattie but Zeena is unrelenting in her decision.

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