What literary technique is exemplified by this quotation from Ethan Frome?
"When Ethan could sweat over ’em both from sun-up to dark he kinder choked a living out of ’em; but his folks ate up most everything, even then, . . ."
The literary techniques employed in the quotation include hyperbole (exaggeration) and metaphor.
When Ethan could sweat over ’em both from sun-up to dark he kinder choked a living out of ’em
Clearly, the townsfolk narrator is conveying a message that says that Ethan worked very hard for his mother and father. However, applying the assets "sun up to dark" is a way to increase the effect on the listener regarding Ethan's efforts.
He kinder choked a living out of 'em
Again, Wharton is accentuating the level of effort on Ethan's part.
However, the metaphor is seen in the phrase
but his folks ate up most everything
Here the message has been altered by substituting one thing with another. His parents "ate up almost everything" is a figurative expression that means that, no matter how hard Ethan worked, the parents had much more needs than what he could provide by the sweat of his brow.