The Plot Spot plot summary:
Edith Wharton (1911)
I came to live for a time in Starkfield, Massachusetts, because of work in a neighboring town. Taking quarters with a middle-aged widow named Mrs. Hale, I fell slowly into the drudgery of my surroundings. I soon encountered Ethan Frome and found him to be the most striking man, even though it was clear that he was a broken man. I inquired about town as to his story, but could not piece together a satisfactory tale. Ethan apparently always had a hard life of responsibilities, but an accident some years earlier had left him in his current state. For a few weeks during the winter I employed the man to take me to work. I had hoped to learn more about him during our hours together, but he was wholly reticent and not open to conversation. One night we were caught in the most terrible storm. Unable to make it back to my lodgings, Ethan invited me to stay at his house for the evening. It was that night that I finally found some clue to the man.
Chapter I – The young Ethan Frome had spent a year studying at the polytechnic, but his father’s death and the misfortunes following it had cut his studies short. He had aspirations to move to a city and try to find success there, but things kept getting in the way. The drudgery of field work and the years of caring for his ailing parents had begun to wear Ethan down, but he still retained some latent verve.
When his wife, Zeena, also became sickly, her younger cousin Mattie came to live with them. Ethan was immediately drawn to her bright continence and sense of wonder. Her vibrancy returned some of the vigor to his step. Mattie had been sent to help with the housework because Zeena could no longer perform her duties alone. However, she was unsuited to the drudgery of housework and Ethan found himself assisting her more often than needed. As Mattie and Ethan drew ever closer in kinship, Zeena’s resentment began to bloom.
The Plot Spot plot summary
Abbey Library St. Gallen, Switzerland
Chapter II – Ethan began escorting Mattie into town so that she could attend the local social gatherings. He savored their walks together and during them felt as though he were in a dream. He often felt like a schoolboy around Mattie. She had drawn the attention of the rich merchant’s son, Denis Eady, and Ethan did everything he could to assure himself that the feeling wasn’t reciprocated.
Chapter III – One day Zeena dressed in her finest and announced that she would be travelling overnight to a neighboring town to see a new doctor. Normally Ethan would bristle at such trips because of the inevitable expenses she would incur on ineffectual new medications. But this time he had only one thought on his mind: that this would be the first time since Mattie had come to live with them that they would be alone without Zeena for a night. He wondered if Mattie was thinking the same thing.
Chapter IV – Ethan hurried to finish his work for the day, eager to return home to spend time with Mattie. He returned to find that Mattie had chosen some of Zeena’s finest dishes with which to serve dinner. They ate together, nervous in each other’s company. But then the cat broke one of the saucers and Mattie became distraught about the consequences she would face from Zeena. Ethan promised to purchase a replacement and placed the broken shards on the top shelf in such a manner that the thing should go unnoticed for months. He said that he’d buy some glue the following day as a temporary solution and was thrilled by Mattie’s sympathetic response to his actions.