There is a section in Chapter 7 that talks about Ethan's unhappy and miserable past. His failures and his lack of success as a younger man and the woman (his wife) who has thwarted his ability to be successful at every opportunity. This passage speaks to both Ethan's emotional and materialistic poverty. His wife, rather than ensure his success, has actually perpetuated his failure. When it seems as if Ethan is finally going to rise above his situation, once again his wife squashes it. This ensures that Ethan's life of emotional and financial poverty continues.
Enotes has a great link with resources that should be helpful.