At the beginning of the book, the narrator describes Ethan Frome as "the ruin of a man." Ethan is very tall, and stands out in contrast to the majority of the other denizens of the area, who tend to be stocky in build. Ethan has a "careless powerful look" about him, despite the fact that he is lame. When he walks, his gait is characterized by a check at each step, as if one leg is shackled by a chain. Ethan, whom the narrator later confirms had been quite physically impressive when he was in his prime, still retains a "striking" demeanor at the time the narrator meets him. There is something "bleak and unapproachable in his face," however, that is immediately discernable, and he is "so stiffened and grizzled" that the narrator initially believes that he is "an old man." Ethan, in fact, is only fifty-two at the time his path crosses with that of the narrator. It is clear that he is a man who has suffered much, a fact that is verified to the narrator by the driver of the stage on which he is riding. The driver, Harmon Gow, tells the narrator that Ethan has "looked that way ever since he had his smash-up...twenty-four years ago come next February" (Chapter 1).