What events from Ethan Frome highlight the positive and negative impacts of the lack of communication?

For example:

Ethan gets confronted by Zeena for shaving on a daily basis ever since Mattie's arrival.

Ethan Frome comments that people are saying Mattie is going to leave them, rather than telling her that Zeena is displeased with her work.

Ethan and Mattie's night alone together.

Jotham Powell refuses to stay for dinner - realizing that there is tension between Ethan, Mattie and Zeena.

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The theme of communication is a central one to this novel.  As your post suggests, communication has its positives and its negatives.  On the positive side, good communication fosters a tighter relationship between people; it can foster truth; it makes life more clear because a person "knows where they stand" with others.  On the negative side, good communication can bring out truth that one might rather not know.  These are all relevant to a discussion of the theme of communication in Ethan Frome.

In your first example above, Zeena is clearly communicating to Ethan that she notices his attraction to Mattie, as evidenced by his shaving and paying more attention to his grooming.  This lets Ethan know where Zeena is on the topic of Mattie.  It increases Ethan's guilt over his feelings for Mattie.

In your second example, Ethan chooses to communicate with a lie, to spare Mattie's feelings.  This is in an effort to keep her close to him.  This type of communication though always carries the price-tag of guilt and concern over the eventual revelation of the truth.

In your third example there are a couple types of communication going on.  The unspoken communication of Ethan and Mattie "playing house" bonds their relationship.  They don't actually talk about what they are doing because that would break the spell.  They don't actually talk about their feelings because that would make them more real and then they would have to deal with the potential aftermath of all that.  The surface conversations are light and companionable, bonding them in that way.

In your last example, it is the unspoken communication that is the tension that Powell senses.  Zeena resents the threat that is Mattie; Ethan is torn between his obligations and his dreams; Mattie wants a life of stability and is uncomfortable in the current situation living in the Frome home, but has no other choices.  None of these characters is willing to get it all out in the honest open, so they all walk around in the secret worlds of their own thoughts.  This ends up destroying them in the end.

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Describe several events from Ethan Frome that demonstrate the positive and negative aspects of the lack of communication.For example: Ethan gets confronted by Zeena for shaving on a daily basis ever since Mattie's arrival. Ethan Frome comments that people are saying Mattie is going to leave them, rather than telling her that Zeena is displeased with her work. Ethan and Mattie's night alone together. Jotham Powell refuses to stay for dinner - realizing that there is tension between Ethan, Mattie and Zeena.

The lack of communication is a major motif in the novel. Wharton explores it in terms of both literal physical communication and the more subtle aspects of emotional communication between and among the characters. The severe winter storms break communication among those of Starkfield and the outlying rural areas; people are isolated by geography and nature. When the primary characters are in each other's physical presence, however, they often talk without really communicating. Truth remains buried or unspoken; many conversations exist on two levels simultaneously--what is said and what is truly felt.  One major theme developed in the novel is that isolation and loneliness, very destructive forces, result when people cannot communicate in meaningful ways, for whatever reason. As a result, it is difficult to find in the novel any positive aspects of the lack of communication.

In regard to the examples you have cited, the only positive results that might have accrued from them is that they served to temporarily avoid pain or conflict, to postpone it for a while. So long as the truth remained unspoken, life could continue without major emotional disruption. This, however, did not solve problems or eliminate the emotional conflicts that boiled under the surface. By avoiding their expression, they were deepened and magnified, leading directly to the novel's tragic conclusion. Had the characters communicated their feelings and thus acknowledged the truth, a "happy ending" might not have resulted in their lives, but the horrendous misery their lives became might have been avoided.

Finally, when Ethan raised the subject about Mattie's leaving them, he did so in the context of Mattie's possibly getting married. It was his way of dealing with that painful thought. Perhaps he wanted to hear her say that she would never marry, meaning that she would never leave him, even though he had no right to ask her to make that sacrifice.

 

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How does this event from Ethan Frome demonstrate the positive and negative aspects of the lack of communication?Ethan gets confronted by Zeena for shaving on a daily basis ever since Mattie's arrival.

This is a particularly interesting incident to focus on, because it reveals how so much of our communication is actually non-verbal--that is, most of our communication is transmitted without actually ever opening our mouth. Zeena obviously notes the way that Mattie's arrival in the household has changed her husband's personal habits, and how he is obviously making an effort that he never did before to try and be more presentable. Zeena obviously interprets this as a sign of affection or fondness for Mattie. Lack of open communication is therefore negative because it means that people are left to interpret what they see and observe based on their own understanding and preconceptions. However, lack of communication can also be said to have positive aspects, because Ethan could hardly have openly admitted his attraction towards Mattie, as that would have caused massive trouble.

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How does the following event from Ethan Frome demonstrate the positive and negative aspects of the lack of communication?Ethan Frome comments that people are saying Mattie is going to leave them, rather than telling her that Zeena is displeased with her work.

There is definitely a certain imprecision with words as a form of communication. We say one thing but unfortunately the other person that we say those words to are able to take what meaning they want from those words. In a sense, such examples as the one you have given above show that words are neutral: it is our perception of them that gives them their meaning.

Note how with this example, when Ethan says to Mattie, "It's natural enough you should be leaving us," Ethan is actually saying this out of jealousy at, as he assumes, Mattie's imminent marriage and his losing her. However, note how Mattie interprets this phrase. Shortly after hearing it, she responds with:

"You mean that Zeena--ain't suited with me any more?" she faltered.

In addition, she begins to suspect that his utterance indicates that Ethan wants her to go too, when, obviously the complete opposite is true. Thus this example shows the imprecise nature of communication and how what we say can be interpreted in many ways.

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