Why does Mrs. Hale think that Ethan would have fared better if Mattie had died?  Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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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Ethan Frome

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