The narrator of Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome comes to visit Starkfield and hears about the story of the Ethan Frome from numerous people.The narrator claims to have heard the story, "bit by bit, from various people." Through the gossip and truths of the town, the narrator is able to construct a picture of Ethan Frome.
The narrator hears many different things. The first thing the narrator hears about Ethan (from Harmon Gow) is the fact that he is the shell of a man because of the accident he had twenty-two years prior. The narrator, questioning the seriousness of the accident is told that it would have killed any other man, but Ethan Frome was "tough." Gow stated that he expected Ethan to live to be one hundred because of his ability to withstand life.
The narrator then learns that Ethan, although smart enough, was not one of the ones who got away from Starkfield. Instead, he was destined to live forever in the town because of he had to stay and care for his family (his father, mother, and wife). Gow states that "Ethan done the caring" in the family.
With all of the truths and rumors the narrator did hear in the town, the narrator never finds out where "the look in his face which neither poverty nor physical suffering could have put there." The one striking question the narrator sought would not be answered by the other characters. In fact, the narrator would only come to understand the look on Ethan's face from Ethan himself.