What is missing from Ethan's house, and why does this strike the narrator as important in Ethan Frome?
Ethan Frome’s house is very bare and stark, old and run-down, and missing the “L.”
Described as a lonely New England farmhouse, the “Frome farm was always ’bout as bare's a milkpan when the cat's been round” (prologue). The house is ugly, and missing the “L,” which is an adjunct connecting it to storage outbuildings.
The black wraith of a deciduous creeper flapped from the porch, and the thin wooden walls, under their worn coat of paint, seemed to shiver in the wind that had risen with the ceasing of the snow. (prologue)
Frome’s taking down the “L” is symbolic, because it connects the farmer to the land. Without it, Frome seems even more disconnected from New England life, from his land, and from his neighbors.
The isolation of Frome’s farm is symbolic of his own isolation. He has abandoned it metaphorically, just as he has abandoned himself. He has no connection to his own land, his past, or his people. He is an empty shell, and his farm demonstrates that.