Ethan Frome Chapter 2 Summary
by Edith Wharton

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Chapter 2 Summary

The dancers leave the church and prepare to walk or get into their sleighs for the journey home. When someone asks Mattie if she is riding home, Ethan anxiously awaits her reply. She laughs and says of course she will be walking; Ethan steps further back into the shadows, suddenly reticent in Mattie’s presence. She looks around expectantly, but still Ethan does not make his presence known to her. Dennis Eady begins some flirtatious banter with Mattie and then offers her a ride home in his father’s sleigh. She appears to hesitate a bit, though she is no longer looking around her expectantly. Eady brings the sleigh near and throws back the rug for her, but Mattie darts off and tells him to have a nice ride home. He follows her, gets out, and tries to coax her into the sleigh, but she is not interested and will not go. Eady rides off alone and Ethan finally makes his presence known, startling Mattie with his proximity.

Mattie had assumed Ethan could not come because Zeena had not been feeling well that day, and she was prepared to walk home alone. Ethan draws her arm through his (which Dennis Eady had tried unsuccessfully to do) and imagines a slight pressure in the gesture. He wants to prolong these moments alone with Mattie, but they begin their walk home. She pauses near a coasting hill and tells Ethan people had been sledding there earlier. Ethan asks if she would like to go coasting with him sometime. Mattie eagerly says yes, even though a young couple (Ned Hale and Ruth Varnum) had nearly crashed into a giant elm at the bottom of the run. Mattie tells Ethan she is not easily frightened. Ethan assures her he could get her down the hill safely, and perhaps they would go coasting tomorrow.

Ethan is not free to express his feelings for her openly, so he is tortured by every word and tone Mattie speaks, trying to find meaning and discover feelings. Ethan starts a floundering conversation about Mattie and Dennis Eady, trying to determine if she has feelings for him as Zeena has suggested. Rather than comment on Eady, Mattie says she is dismayed that she does not seem to suit Zeena. Her housework is not good, she explains, but she will try to do better. When she fears that Ethan might want her to leave, too, Mattie begins to cry. Unable to express his feelings to her, Ethan keeps them walking in the moonlight until they reach the gate of his house. When he asks Mattie if she wants to leave, she asks her own question: “Where’d I go, if I did?”

As they pass through the gate, Ethan notices the tombstones of long-dead relatives “slanted at crazy angles” in the moonlight. At times they seem to taunt him with the thought that he would be joining them one day soon; they...

(The entire section is 756 words.)