Ethan Frome Questions and Answers
by Edith Wharton

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In Ethan Frome, which of Zeena's character traits was hardest for Ethan?

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While Zeena has a plethora of negative traits, it is the "asthmatic" silence in which she engages what would definitely qualify as the hardest thing for Ethan to tolerate.

In chapter IV, we find evidence which suggests that silence is something that bothers Ethan quite a lot. In fact, the only time Ethan actually shows frustration in the novel is found in this chapter, when his mother becomes ill and falls into a constant silence. 

 ...when his mother fell ill the loneliness of the house grew more oppressive than that of the fields. His mother had been a talker in her day, but after her "trouble" the sound of her voice was seldom heard, though she had not lost the power of speech.

Ethan would actually react wildly to his mother’s silence

Sometimes, in the long winter evenings, when in desperation her son asked her why she didn't "say something," she would lift a finger and answer: "Because I'm listening."

This will occur again with Zeena,...

(The entire section contains 498 words.)

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