From plot debriefs to key motifs, Thug Notes’ Ethan Frome Summary & Analysis has you covered with themes, symbols, important quotes, and more.
Ethan Frome (1911) | Written by: Edith Wharton | Published by: Dover Thrift
Thug Notes Summary and Analysis
What’s good cous? This week on Thug Notes we gettin’ smashed with Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.
It’s hella burr up in Starkfield, Massachusetts, where our outta-town narrator settin up shop. He starts hittin up all the locals to get the low-down on some broke-ass cripple named Ethan Frome- who twenty years ago had what errybody callin a “smash-up.”
One day while the narrator cruisin in Ethan’s hoopty, a gnarly snowstorm busts in to town. So they gotta roll over to Ethan’s crib to hold it down til it passes. When- BAM! FLASHBACK SUCKA! 24 years ago Ethan was creepin around a church waitin to holler at Mattie, his wife Zeena’s COUSIN. See, Zeena say her health so jacked up that they gotta have Mattie live with em as the help.
Since Zeena and Ethan don’t even talk no mo, Ethan jonesin to get a crack at fine lil’ Mattie. Zeena ain’t no fool though, she know where Ethan’s mind at. Ethan ALL fired up when Zeena rolls outta town to see the doc, cuz now he got Mattie to himself. The first night, though, Ethan starts trippin and don’t say nuthin bout his feelings.
When Zeena back in the hood, she say Mattie just ain’t cuttin it and they gotz to find a new girl. Ethan thinks bout baggin Mattie and skippin town, but his pockets ain’t fat enough to make it happen. Plus he wouldn’t be able to shake the guilt of abandoning his woman.
On the way to the train station, Mattie and Ethan decide to get their sled on. Mattie say “You know what? A life without you ain’t sh**. We should just ram in to that tree REAL FAST and spend our last seconds together. Naw mean?”
Animation: Mattie has suitcases Ethan all like: “Ehhhhhh. Well.
Aigh’t. fu** it.” But nothin ever works for Ethan. Thoughts of Zeena enter his dome makin him bone his one chance at escape. So instead of ending it, he paralyzes Mattie and wrecks himself too.
Back in the present, Ethan and the narrator roll in to Ethan’s crib where now all three of them are crippled in their own way. The only thing they got to look forward to is years of mean muggin eachother 24/7.Now this has got to be one of the most depressing books this G ever read. Matter of fact, some gangstas say that Edith Wharton straight up cruel.
If you gonna make your characters suffer, it best be for a purpose. But E-Dub ain’t playin like dat. Even through all the pain he gotta grind through, Ethan don’t learn a damn thing. The reader just watches his life get sh** on. And Ethan ain’t the only one who gets dealt a raw hand.
After years of bein neglected by her man and havin to bust her ass on that cold-as-a-bitch farm, Zeena slowly turns in to a boring stiff who ain’t got no soul. As the narrator say, she sportin: “pale opaque eyes which revealed nothing and reflected nothing.” (95)
Ethan don’t just cripple people emotionally. After mackin on Mattie hard core, it ain’t long before she trapped in a bunk ass situation too. It’s like this playa ruins everybody he touches- including himself!
Now even before he fu**s up his body, fool’s already broken by the choice he’s forced to make. See, Ethan gotta choose between caring for his miserable old lady, or givin in to passion and jumpin ship with his baby Dip Mattie; Of doing what society ‘spects of him, or of goin all out for his own happiness.
But on the real, this fool’s dreams were wrecked long before Mattie. Ethan always wanted to leave his trap and move up to a big city where there’s actually sh** to do. Since Zeena didn’t wanna leave the hood, Ethan’s sad ass gotta stay in this icy hell just like his ancestors did. Matter of fact, reality smacks him in the face erry time he sees his family plot:
“the Frome grave-stones slanted at crazy angles through the snow. Ethan looked at them curiously. For years that quiet company had mocked his restlessness, his desire for change and freedom. ‘We never got away – how should you?’ seemed to be written on every headstone; and whenever he went in or out of his gate he thought with a shiver: ‘I shall just go on living here till I join them. (26)”
But is a life without dreams one worth livin? Don’t a brotha owe it to himself to pursue happiness?
Maybe not. Some thugz say Wharton got a lesson for us after all. Maybe chasin dreams ain’t the best thing. Maybe the best we can do is just step to the misery, and hold it down.
So march on soldier boy, and cheer yourself up with some Thug Notes swag and catch me next week, playas. Peace!