One winter night, young Ethan Frome is walking to the town church, where dances are held in the basement, to bring his wife's cousin, Mattie Silver, home. The stillness of the winter night reminds him of his engineering and physics courses, which he had been studying for about four years before his father's death had put an end to his studies. In the crowd of people dancing, Ethan looks for a red scarf - the red scarf Mattie always wears.
Topic Tracking: Colors 1
A jealous Ethan watches Denis Eady dancing with Mattie and notices her excitement. Every Sunday night, he looks forward to walking Mattie home from the dances, and he hopes that Denis does not take Mattie home. He remembers the time (over a year ago) when his wife, Zeena, suggested that her cousin, Mattie Silver, come to Starkfield to help care for her. Ethan became fond of her good nature, her liveliness, and her deep passion for nature, which he shares. She is the only person with whom he can share the wonder of nature: the stars at night, the snow-covered land, the fields. Ethan begins to think that Mattie cares for him as much as he cares for her.
Topic Tracking: Environment 4
Topic Tracking: Love 1
Ethan's wife Zeena is not ignorant of Ethan's affection for Mattie, nor does she overlook the attention Mattie pays to her husband. Zeena thinks Mattie is a careless, inefficient girl with no domestic skills at all, but Ethan privately believes that if Mattie does marry the man she loves, she will become a good housewife. Zeena is an ailing, "sickly" woman, whom, even at Ethan's admittance, needs a stronger girl to do the Fromes' housework. Ethan tries to compensate for Mattie's forgetful, absentminded manner by doing some of Mattie's chores himself, and one night Zeena catches him.
Topic Tracking: Love 2
Zeena informs Ethan that they should be prepared to hire a new girl if Mattie should leave to marry Denis Eady. Ethan disregards Zeena's words but when Zeena makes a stinging remark