What effect does Mr. Hale's statement that he is fixing up a house for ned and Ruth have on Ethan's plans?Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
In Chapter IV after Zeena rather unexpectedly informs Ethan that she needs to see some new doctors in Springfield about her "shooting pains," Ethan is relieved to know that Jotham Powell will drive her there; in addition, the idea that he will be along with Mattie Silver lifts his spirits.
Offering the excuse that he must take his lumber to Andrew Hale, he slips and tells his wife that he will collect cash from Mr. Hale. However, it is customary for Hale to pay at the end of the month only. So, when Ethan does unload his lumber and asks for an advance of fifty dollars, he is awkward in his request because he is proud and does not want Hale to think that he is in financial trouble. As he opens the door of the office to depart, Mr. Hale calls out, "See here--you ain't in a tight place, are you?" Too proud, Frome replies, "not a bit." Hale feels relieved, explaining that he is somewhat financially strapped because he is "fixing up a little house for Ned and Ruth when they're married." And, he looks to Ethan for sympathy. Because Mrs. Hale has always been so sympathetic, Ethan abandons his earlier plea.
Later, in Chapter VIII of Edith Wharton's novella, Ethan experiences "[C]onfused notions of rebellion." So, he decides to go to back to the kindhearted Andrew Hale, hoping that Hale can be persuaded to advance him a small sum afterall. Thinking that if he could gain the "ear" of Mrs. Hale, Ethan feels confident and heads for Starkfied before Mr. Hale begins his carpentry job on Corbury road. But, this plan, too, is aborted reinforcing the motif introduced in Chapter IV of the tryanny of social customs and the stark Puritanical environment of Starkfield.