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In the novel Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton, Mattie Silver and Zeena Frome are extremely different people in physical appearance as well as personality. In the Novel Edith Wharton depicts these contrasts to the reader in many ways. Ethan Frome is married to Zeena and has this undying love for Zeena's cousin Mattie. Through the course of the story the love plays out and all sorts of things start to happen. Zeena Frome is the sickly, stubborn wife of Ethan. They met when Zeena came to help care for Ethan's mother.
After they were married she became terribly ill and could or would not do most things for her self. She has a very grumpy and stubborn attitude towards everything and is never happy. Zeena is a very cold-hearted and unthoughtful person in everything she does and says. She spends Ethan's money on expensive remedies to cure her illness and does not even think of the effect it will have. Zeena always came back laden with expensive remedies, and her last visit to Springfield had been commemorated by her paying twenty dollars for an electric battery of which she had never been able to learn to use (47). Also when she discovers thats she needs a professional to care for her and help around the house she kicks Mattie out of the house as if it is no big deal.
Although Mattie is family and has nowhere to go Zeena is too stubborn to let her stay. Zeena never changed her mind and in her case a resolve once taken was equivalent to an act performed (90) Mattie has the complete opposite traits from those of Zeena; she is lively and not sickly and always has a smile. She is very kind hearted and always thinks of other people. She is grateful to everything that Ethan and Zeena have to done for her. For instance when Zeena is sick and wont come down Mattie treats her so well even though she does not get the same in return. Oh, Im sorry!
Arent you well? Shant I bring you a bite of something? (86) She also is very kind to Ethan. She always showed compassion towards him because she knew that Zeena never would. He loved to pick her up and talk with her because she loved to hear about his studies. It was during their night walks back to the farm that he felt most intensely the sweetness of this communion (25) He always looked forward to picking her up from the church just to be in her presence. She was an all around upbeat person who Ethan enjoyed being with.
Zeena is what Stark field always called sickly (27). Zeena Frome is clearly a very sickly old looking woman. Very worn out with gray hair and age showing everywhere. She has this gray look to her that made her look older than she was. She was only in her thirties but to others she might look fifty. He turned and looked at her where she lay indistinctly outlined under the dark gray calico quilt, her high boned face taking a grayish tinge from the whiteness of the pillow (28) After seeing Mattie it is hard for Ethan to look at his wife without wishing she was beautiful.
To Ethan still in the rosy haze of his hour with Mattie, the sight came with the intense precision of the last dream before wakening. He felt he had never before known what his wife looked like (40). Zeena was never strikingly beautiful but she has changed ever since they have gotten married. Mattie on the other hand is this full of life young woman. She is the complete reverse of what Zeena looks like. She has rosy cheeks and a round face and always looks lively.
Ethan loves the way Mattie is. She is also more delicate looking. When he saw her for the first time in the spring he saw how attractive she was, inside and out. He had taken to that girl from the first day she arrived (25) She smiled a lot and always had a sense of happiness. On their night alone without Zeena Ethan walks in to see Mattie standing there the light threw a lustrous fleck on her lips, edged her eyes with a velvet shade, and laid a milky whiteness above the black curve of her brow (60) She was a happy, pretty, loved person until the smash-up. Mattie Silver is very different form Zeena Frome until the Smash up.
On the day Mattie was supposed to leave Ethan decided to take her sledding. They both agree to kill themselves by crashing into a tree on the sled. Ethan misses the tree and they both are severely injured. After the sledding accident she was left paralyzed and looks worse and older than Zeena.
Until then Mattie was this beautiful young creature whom Ethan loved. She sits by the fire and cant do anything for her self. She cannot talk or move anymore. Now Zeena is livelier than her- how ironic.
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