When did Ethan Frome's father die relative to his mother?

Quick answer:

Ethan's mother died of an illness after his father's accidental death.

Expert Answers

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Little is known of Ethan Frome's father as he is only mentioned in Chapter I and later in Chapter 4  as having died of an accident, presumably on the farm or in the sawmill, when Ethan was a student several years before the time of the narrative; his death forced Ethan to return home because of the dramatic change in the family's financial situation with no one to run the farm.

At the narrative's beginning, Ethan is twenty-eight years old and has been married to Zeena, who is thrity-five and "already an old woman" for seven years; so, the mother lived only a several years after her husband's demise; "her trouble" and "her long illness" ended, and Ethan married Zeena. This information comes in Chapter IV, as well as the fact that on the tombstones of the Frome's, an engravement states that they lived together in peace for fifty years.

Another allusion is made to Ethan's parents in Chapter VIII as the narratoar describes the "best parlor" which Ethan was given by his mother for his own use when he was called back to the farm. After he has married Zeena, Ethan retreats to this room from his prison of a marriage, but only in the summer as it is inhabitable in the winter since Mattie now uses the stove. At any rate, the deaths of his parents have destroyed Ethan Frome's dreams of becoming an engineer and pursuing a satisfying life.

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