Ethan and Zeena had been married for seven years when Mattie came to keep house for them. Zeena had "fallen silent" after the first year of their marriage, and during the remainder of those seven years, Ethan had lived in emotional isolation. This represents one of the novel's many ironies since Ethan had married Zeena impulsively to avoid being alone on the farm during the long and bitter New England winter facing him as Zeena prepared to leave after his mother's death. Ethan once realized that he would not have married Zeena if his mother had died in the spring.
Casual references to time throughout the novel make it possible to determine the ages of the characters throughout the novel's events. Ethan was 52 when the narrator first saw him, and the smash-up had occurred 24 years previously. Ethan, then was 28 when he met Mattie. Zeena was 35 when Mattie came to them. Ethan married Zeena when he was only 21 years old and she was 28. By the time the narrator met Ethan, he had been married to Zeena for 31 years. No doubt they would be joined for the rest of their lives and then lie next to each other in the Frome graveyard. Ethan was forever bound to Zeena.