How does the following event from Ethan Frome demonstrate the positive and negative aspects of the lack of communication?
Ethan Frome comments that people are saying Mattie is going to leave them, rather than telling her that Zeena is displeased with her work.
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There is definitely a certain imprecision with words as a form of communication. We say one thing but unfortunately the other person that we say those words to are able to take what meaning they want from those words. In a sense, such examples as the one you have given above show that words are neutral: it is our perception of them that gives them their meaning.
Note how with this example, when Ethan says to Mattie, "It's natural enough you should be leaving us," Ethan is actually saying this out of jealousy at, as he assumes, Mattie's imminent marriage and his losing her. However, note how Mattie interprets this phrase. Shortly after hearing it, she responds with:
"You mean that Zeena--ain't suited with me any more?" she faltered.
In addition, she begins to suspect that his utterance indicates that Ethan wants her to go too, when, obviously the complete opposite is true. Thus this example shows the imprecise nature of communication and how what we say can be interpreted in many ways.
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