Where does Ethan take Mattie near the end of the narrative of Ethan Frome?    

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the final chapter, Ethan Frome takes Mattie to Shadow Pond so that they can relive some fond memories.

After attempting to write to his wife in order to inform her that he is leaving her, Ethan surrenders to his sense of duty because he cannot bring himself to leave Zeena without any financial support. He pushes aside his partially completed letter since he feels that:

...the inexorable facts closed in on him like prison-warders handcuffing a convict. There was no way out--none. He was a prisoner for life, and now his one way of light was extinguished (Ch.8).

On the day that Mattie is to depart, Ethan decides that he will drive her to the station rather than allow Jotham Powell to do so. Filled with emotion, he harnesses his horse to the sleigh so that he and Mattie may depart for Starkfield. As they travel Ethan decides to take a long way around that goes past Shadow Pond. They stop near the hill down which they have previously coasted. Ethan suggests that they again ride the sled that he sees beneath the Varnum spruces. In response to Mattie's concern about his seeing in the dim light, Ethan replies that he has the "surest eye" and can avoid striking a tree.

After their first ride down the hill, Mattie and Ethan make their decision to go again. This time they intend to strike the great elm tree and die together. As the sled descends, Ethan is suddenly startled by his wife's face that appears before him "with twisted monstrous lineaments, thrust[ing] itself between him and his goal" (Ch. 9). This frightening image causes him to swerve. As a result, their suicide attempt is unsuccessful and Mattie is paralyzed and Ethan debilitated. 

mkcapen1 | Student

At the end of the book Ethan and Mattie are prepared to take her to the station where she will be sent away.  They are both very upset and devastated that she has to go.  Neither one can bear it because they both know that Mattie will have no family to help her and no where to live.  Ethan starts telling her how he really feels about her and she back to him when he tells her: 

"I don't know how it is you make me feel, Matt. I'd a'most rather have you dead than that!"

Mattie begins to agree that she does not want to live.  The two of them are on the top of the hill that Ethan and Mattie had sled down before.

"They had reached the crest of the Corbury road, and between the indistinct white glimmer of the church and the black curtain of the Varnum spruces the slope stretched away below them without a sled on its length."

Ethan and Mattie ride the sled and walk back up the hill arm and arm and he tells her;

"Oh, Matt, I can't let you go!" broke from him in the same old cry. "