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At the end of Edith Wharton's gothic tale, there is a Poe-like tone to the comment of Mrs. Hale. For, she implies that Ethan is trapped in a living death. The irony of his state is striking: Instead of freeing himself from the misery of cohabiting with a querulous and demanding woman he detests, he is now trapped interminably with one who has become worse, the tragically injured Mattie, whom he must be tortured by as a wreck of his love and hope. Nor is there any respite from his loneliness and anguish and guilt; his is now an irresolvable misery in which his love, Mattie, has transformed into a mirror image of Zeena.
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