Ethan Frome is a story of ill-fated love, set during the winter in the rural New England town of Starkfield. Ethan is a farmer who is married to a sickly woman named Zeena. The two live in trapped, unspoken resentment on Ethan's isolated and failing farm. Ethan has been caring for his wife for six years now. Due to Zeena's numerous complications they employ her cousin to help in the house, the animated Mattie Silver.
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in The Bookman could not forgive Wharton for her cruelty toward both her characters and her readers.
The novel shows how one will not follow their heart due to what society may think. It shows how much society's beliefs in the 1900's were valued. Despite low sales when this book first became published and unfavorable remarks about Ethan Frome, the novel is still read and loved by many people, in many countries and languages, today.