What are three differences between Ethan Frome and John Proctor of The Crucible?  

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The differences between John Proctor and Ethan Frome indicate that Proctor as an assertive and proactive individual, while Frome is a passive one.

  • John Proctor is active while Frome is passive.

Once Abigail begins her treacherous lies, accusing Proctor's wife Elizabeth of "blackening" her good name, Proctor shakes her and...

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The differences between John Proctor and Ethan Frome indicate that Proctor as an assertive and proactive individual, while Frome is a passive one.

  • John Proctor is active while Frome is passive.

Once Abigail begins her treacherous lies, accusing Proctor's wife Elizabeth of "blackening" her good name, Proctor shakes her and threatens to punish her. Further, he tells her that she need not think that she should wait for him: "I'll not be comin' for you more" (Act I). Later, although he fails, Proctor attempts to expose Abigail's lies and treacherous intentions.

In describing the setting of her novella, Edith Wharton uses the word exanimate. This word also describes Ethan Frome.  All the passions in his blood are dashed against the tree that fateful day with Mattie because he has always depended upon others to awaken his feelings. This dependence and passivity are what lead Frome to ask Zeena to marry him when his mother dies, rather than move on to another life. Once married to Zeena, Ethan Frome is unable to be assertive enough to change his life; he is encased in his own silence, "the old veil of reticence."

  • John Proctor takes charge of his life; Frome surrenders his. 

Unhappy in his marriage, Proctor succumbs to his passions and commits adultery. He struggles with the admission of his adultery because such an admission will destroy his good name and his marriage. However, because of Abigail's lies and treachery, his wife Elizabeth becomes endangered. So, strengthened by his renewed love for Elizabeth and his deep respect for her, John Proctor accuses Abigail of "a whore's vengeance," thereby risking his reputation by his confession of adultery. However, his concern for justice outweighs his anxiety over his reputation. Proctor is willing to die in order to maintain truth and his good name as an honest and authentic man. He also refuses to allow his false confession to be nailed on the church door.

When his father dies, Frome abandons his dream of becoming an engineer in order to perform his filial duty of supporting his mother. Thus, he endures rather than acts. When his attempt to find a life of his own with Mattie begins, he initially feels a sense of kinship and mastery of his life. But this mastery is short-lived after Zeena tells Ethan that Mattie must go because she has hired a new girl. Ineffectually, Ethan tries to argue that Mattie is her relative, not just a hired girl, but Zeena insists.

Ethan looked at her with loathing. She was no longer the listless creature who had lived at his side in a state of sullen self-absorption, but an evil energy secreted from the long years of silent brooding. It was the sense of his helplessness that sharpened his antipathy. (Chapter VI)

  • John Proctor redeems himself; Ethan Frome surrenders his existence.

With his refusal to slander himself by allowing the confession to hang on the church door, Proctor retains his integrity and sense of self. Frome, howeverm submits to his obligations after his weak attempt to stand up to Zeena's desire to remove Mattie from their home. The only escape from his circumstances, he feels, is his suicide attempt with Mattie. Yet he fails to die, so he surrenders to his life of quiet desolation, a man imprisoned by circumstance who lacks enough will to change anything.

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