Ethan Frome Questions and Answers
by Edith Wharton

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What is an example of dramatic irony in Ethan Frome?

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Dramatic irony is a literary situation in which the author provides the reader with more information than some of the characters, which often evokes fear, suspense, and pity for the characters as we watch them fall helplessly into situations without being able to advise or forewarn them. One notable instance of dramatic irony in Wharton’s novella arises in chapter four after Zeena’s cat knocks her owner’s prized pickle dish off of the dinner table. Mattie used the pickle dish, which was a wedding present for Zeena and Ethan, against Zeena’s knowledge or permission. The reader knows that the pickle dish is broken beyond repair, yet Zeena does not (at least until she comes home from her overnight stay at the doctor’s), which creates dramatic irony. The readers wait in suspense along with Ethan and Mattie to see if Zeena will discover the broken pickle dish, and with it, the secret of Ethan and Mattie’s secret love for each other.

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I would identify the ironic elements in

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