… only, I am not wearing socks today because I have grading to do. Keeps me focused. The sooner I get my grading done, the sooner I get to wear socks. Okay, slightly twisted, it started in my high school days when I was trying to motivate myself to finish a project. I came up with the idea that I wouldn’t wear socks until I had finished. So far, it has worked. And telling my little secret to other people always elicits smiles because they never quite get it. I am not sure, I do, either, other than it is a habit, and I like to maintain consistency. Now, then, on to E. F.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton 1862-1937

Lovely book, albeit more than slightly depressing. I love the language, especially the language of nature. It’s like Wharton has created a character out of place and nature. The dead sense of winter, with snow constantly falling, adds to the darkness of the novel. Powerfully awesome!

Mostly, I think that Wharton was attempting to play with narrative structure as she starts out with a separate narrative who seems distant from Ethan Frome’s story, then enters into the story of Frome, and finally ends with the unnamed narrator again. Ethan’s story centers around himself, Zeena (his wife whom he met after she moved in to help take care of his parents), and Mattie (Zeena’s cousin who has no place to go, but moves in to help take care of Zeena because now she is sick). Really, they are all a bit messed up, and it seems as if Ethan, while the central character of the novel, can never make a move which will define the story. The other characters, even Mattie, seem to have more control over the events of the story.

I would also say, then, that Wharton is making a commentary on women. Obviously, the last line of the book overtly speaks to that, “I don’t see’s there’s much difference between the Frome’s up at the farm and the Frome’s down in the graveyard; ‘cept that down there they’re all quiet and the women have got to hold their tongues.” Of course, since this is said by a woman (the younger Mrs. Hale), does that subvert the point altogether?

I love that Wharton is willing to play with the narrative, and to question some societal conventions about men and women. Wharton is taking risks, and as a female writer, I appreciate and connect with her audacity, courage, and bravery. Go Wharton.

I am still unsure about the narrative structure aspect. After reading some commentary, it would seem that Wharton took some flak from her own contemporaries for the choice of narrative structure. And, I agree. If this were shorter and in workshop, I would have said that the narrative structure was too easy. But, it’s not shorter, and it’s published by an amazing author, so I guess I can’t say stuff like that. Hmm… I am just thankful that in the end, I am not the manipulated narrator. Although, in saying that, I get the foreboding feeling, that as the reader, perhaps I really was the manipulated narrator.

Wow, she’s good.

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