Discussion Topic

Ethan and Mattie's Affection in "Ethan Frome"

Summary:

Ethan and Mattie's affection in "Ethan Frome" is characterized by a deep, unspoken connection that contrasts sharply with Ethan's strained and loveless marriage to Zeena. Their relationship is built on shared moments and mutual understanding, growing stronger as they spend more time together, despite the societal and personal constraints that ultimately prevent them from being together.

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Why is Ethan strongly attracted to Mattie in chapters 1 and 2 of Ethan Frome?

Sometimes we grow attached to people we spend a lot of time with, whether we intend to or not. I concur that Ethan finds Mattie a welcome distraction from the drudgery and monotony of the white landscape of his life, both literally and metaphorically.
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Why is Ethan strongly attracted to Mattie in chapters 1 and 2 of Ethan Frome?

Sometimes we grow attached to people we spend a lot of time with, whether we intend to or not. I concur that Ethan finds Mattie a welcome distraction from the drudgery and monotony of the white landscape of his life, both literally and metaphorically.
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Why is Ethan strongly attracted to Mattie in chapters 1 and 2 of Ethan Frome?

One reason Mattie is important to Ethan is that she offers him some distraction from the continual interior, anxious focus caring for an ill (and ill-mannered!) person generates. She gives him opportunity to think of things outside his restricted personal life. She gives him the presence of vital life and cheer. Painfully ironic is the tragic loss of these very qualities from the life they go on to share together.

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Why is Ethan strongly attracted to Mattie in chapters 1 and 2 of Ethan Frome?

Mattie is a refreshing youthful and attractive young woman and Ethan can't help but notice that she is completely different from the landscape, the house and his wife. It is revealed in Chapter 1 that Mattie and Ethan walk together in the evenings. It is during these times that Ethan could share with Mattie all that he had learned and

the fact that admiration for his learning mingled with Mattie's wonder at what he taught was not the least part of his pleasure. There were other sensations, less definable but more exquisite, which drew them together with a shock of silent joy.

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Why is Ethan and Mattie's affection so apparent in Chapter IX of Ethan Frome?

I am not entirely certain about the intent of your question. How is their affection made so apparent in the chapter, or why is their love emphasized so strongly in this chapter? I will discuss both of these to make sure I have addressed your question.

The love between Mattie and Ethan is very apparent in the beginning of the chapter as Mattie prepares to leave.  When Ethan comes home, he is angry that Mattie is upstairs alone trying to bring down her heavy trunk. When he goes upstairs to help her, they have a few moments alone. Mattie has been crying. She thought Ethan was not returning to the farm before she leaves. She had believed she would not be seeing him again. She clings to him as he strokes her hair.

Ethan's strong feelings are also apparent in the scene in the kitchen between Ethan and Zeena. Zeena insists that Jotham Powell will drive Mattie to the train station. When Ethan says he will drive her, Zeena insists even more strongly that Powell will take Mattie and then comes up with some reasons for Ethan to stay on the farm. In this case, Ethan overrules Zeena and leaves with Mattie. He usually gives Zeena her way, but not this time.

In the remainder of the chapter, Ethan and Mattie's deep love for each other is shown in their conversations and actions. For the first time, each one of them speaks freely. The idea of being separated is unbearable for Ethan and for Mattie. They kiss for the first time, and kiss several times after that. When they choose to die together instead of live apart, the depth of their love is emphasized. Because they love each other so desperately, the conclusion of the novel becomes especially tragic.

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Why is Ethan and Mattie's affection so apparent in Chapter IX of Ethan Frome?

We can assume that Edith Wharton had to emphasize the amount of love that Mattie and Ethan displayed and declared to each other in order to understand, as readers, the extent to which their desperation prompted them to agree so suddenly on a suicide solution.

Also, as readers we get to almost sympathy for their emotions: Ethan and Mattie are both in constant oppression due to the overpowering presence of Zeena, and because they see in each other a kindred spirit, kind of a soul mates. Their suffering was the same, and their pressure that they were under was quite huge. Therefore, by intensifying the description of their emotions we can relate to what they decided to do as a last choice.

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