Ethan Frome Questions and Answers
by Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome book cover
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In Ethan Frome, what makes Ethan a tragic hero?

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Ethan's tragedy lies in what his life could have become had he been able to free himself from Starkfield, first as a very young man and then later at the age of 28. When he was very young, Ethan was intellectually curious and full of dreams; he was very sociable. He wanted to move away from tiny, isolated Starkfield to live in a busy city where life was exciting and full of possibilities. This was not to be, for Ethan's adult life would be largely determined by chance and circumstance.

He was born into poverty, the only child of farm people who worked hard but never got ahead financially. The Frome farm provided only a bare existence, but it was the family farm handed down through generations. Ethan was tied to the farm by tradition and by responsibility. When his father died and his mother became ill, he had to give up school and return. It never occurred to him he had a choice.

The farm was located miles from Starkfield, a small New...

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udonbutterfly | Student

Ethan Frome has continuously put his desires aside. When Ethan went off to college to study architecture, something he has always loved, he is forced to leave and take care of his mother and the farm. Then when his mother dies instead of going back to college he marries Zeena because he believed it was the right thing to do after she helped him take care of his mother. Ethan only felt responsibility in regards to Zeena and nothing more. Ethan then becomes trapped in a unhappy marriage while someone he loves is only inches from him and he can not do anything because his strong sense of responsibility will not allow him do anything except to care for Zeena and the farm. However the one time he lets go of his reigns and decides to live a little he is thrust into a life where is disfigured and now have to take care of is ex-lovers paralyzed body.