What would be Mattie Silver's greatest achievement in the book?  

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mattie does seem to able to attract men and use them to get what she wants. This is a survival trait in the stark life they live. She definitely uses Ethan, and once she gets her hooks in him he becomes even more powerless. She does not really bring out the best in men.
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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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While Mattie exhibits some sterling qualities and strengths such as eliciting emotion from Ethan, she is another person who is someone parasitic like Zeena.  For her manipulations cripple Ethan both physically and spiritually.

Here is a passage that describes her manipulation:

"Ethan, where'll I go if I leave you?  I don't know how to get along alone.  You said so yourself just now.  Nobody but you was ever good to me.  And there'll be that strange girl in the house...and she'll sleep in my bed, where I used to lay nights and listen to hear you come up the stairs."

 

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Mattie has a few accomplishments in the story. First, we see that she has a capacity to attract young men during town gatherings. This means that Mattie has all the qualities needed to find a husband and start a family of her own. Second, Mattie was able to leave her family home: Although she was living with Ethan and Zeena, we can sense that Mattie has that ever-youthful desire to explore new grounds. Unfortunately for her, what she was able to explore was extremely limited. Finally, Mattie is the biggest motivator for Ethan. He has been somewhat castrated in principle by Zeena's heavy presence. Mattie is the only normal female he has come in contact with in a personal level. Certainly, we can tell that Mattie did accomplish making Ethan's life meaninful for the first time ever.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I'm going to add a comment here to give another aspect to Mattie's character that I think is sometimes overlooked.  Mattie Silver is very resourceful.  She is alone in the world except for her distant relation -- Zeena.  She has no education, no talents, and no prospects.  She sees what a kind and strong man Ethan is, and plays on that.  She never crosses the line, but she knows the game she is playing when they have their special dinner together and she gets out Zeena's dish -- she is tempting Ethan away from Zeena.  She plays the weak female in several scenes to play on Ethan's infatuation.  In the end, when Ethan is driving her to the train station because Zeena wants her (the threat to her marriage) out of town, Mattie starts the game again.  It is HERE that she tells Ethan that she is in love with him, and to make this story even more "authentic" she tells him that she has actually loved him since the previous summer when she saw him approaching her at the Pond.  This is intended to pull on Ethan's heartstrings -- and it works to a degree.  He is not willing or able to bring her back the house, and he is not able to run away with her either, so she sees her situation as hopeless and suggests the double suicide.  This ending, of course, doesn't work out because neither of them are truly suicidal over their situation, and therefore, Ethan can't completely steer towards the elm -- he has that moment of hesitation and he steers them slightly off-course.  His righting the sled isn't enough to do them in.  It is easy and tempting to read the end of the novel as a tragic love story, but I see something a little more cynical on the Mattie side of the relationship.

 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mattie has few redeeming qualities, really, but the one thing she does is allow Ethan to feel as if he could once again be something.  His passion for the things he studied is rekindled, and he feels once again like he is valuable and able to be productive.  Unfortunately it's not enough, as he is still unable to take any real action to improve his life; however, Mattie does inspire at least a spark of warmth in Ethan's frigid life.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I would have to say her ability to bring out the best in others.  She gives Ethan a spark that he's been missing for a very long time, and although I don't encourage adultery, she helps him "live".  After the accident when she and Ethan are hurt, she brings out the best in Zelda.  Zelda rises from her sickbed to be the caregiver for the two who are truly invalids.  She becomes what she was in the beginning of the book--helpful, full of life and energy, pleasant.

I don't have the book right in front of me, so I'm at a loss for a quote at the moment.  I'll try to get back here to add one.  Good Luck!

udonbutterfly's profile pic

udonbutterfly | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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In my opinion Mattie's best attribute to the novel was being able to turn Ethan Forme's dark world into a world full of sun shine that made his life more bearable to live. Mattie gave Ethan breath room that he was not able to get with Zeenobia and engaged him in conversations where he could actually show his intelligence.

valerie31's profile pic

valerie31 | (Level 2) eNoter

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I would have to say her ability to bring out the best in others.  She gives Ethan a spark that he's been missing for a very long time, and although I don't encourage adultery, she helps him "live".  After the accident when she and Ethan are hurt, she brings out the best in Zelda.  Zelda rises from her sickbed to be the caregiver for the two who are truly invalids.  She becomes what she was in the beginning of the book--helpful, full of life and energy, pleasant.

I don't have the book right in front of me, so I'm at a loss for a quote at the moment.  I'll try to get back here to add one.  Good Luck!

thankyou so much for your help.If you come up with anything for the quote please inform me,thanx

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