Ethan Frome - Chapter summary
Uploaded by RASTERVIBE on Apr 08, 1999
One thing that sets Ethan Frome apart from other novels is the way the story is told. Edith Wharton doesn't just start at the beginning and tell you what happens. Rather, she uses a narrator who knows no more about Ethan Frome than you do.
The narrator, who remains nameless, is a young engineer. He tells you how he uncovered Ethan's story bit by bit. He recounts what people said to him and what he observed during the months he spent in Ethan's hometown one winter long ago.
This opening chapter is a prologue to the main story. It introduces the narrator, describes the town and surrounding countryside, describes some townspeople, and starts to build some of the novel's major themes. But most of all, it stirs your curiosity about Ethan Frome.
The narrator you directly by saying "If youk now Starkfield, Massachusetts, you know the post office." The post office is where he first laid saw Ethan. Every day at noon Ethan parked his buggy at the curb and picked up mail at the post office window. He rarely got anything except the local newspaper and an occasional package of patent medicine addressed to his wife, Zeena Frome.
Ethan seldom talked to anybody. When someone addressed him, he answered quietly with as few words as possible before mounting his buggy and driving slowly back to his farm. He appears to be a cheerless, broken man.Ethan catches the narrator's eye because his looks are striking. Tall and powerful, Ethan must have been a strong man at one time. But now he hobbles when he walks, his shoulders sag, and he has a red gash, the scar of an old wound, across his forehead. To the narrator, Ethan looks as though he "was dead and in heel". Yet he is only fifty-two years old.
Harmon Gow, Starkfield's stage driver, explains Ethan's run-down appearance and his age .It was the "smash-up," he says, an event that occurred twenty-four years ago.It was a terrible smashup, Gow recalls, and it should have killed him. But, he adds, the Fromes are tough, and Ethan will probably live to be one hundred.
The narrator, it turns out, has spent a whole winter in Starkfield. An engineer for a power company, he had been sent to do a job in nearby Corbury Junction. A strike delayed the work, so he had plenty of time to get to know the...