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, Ethanlooks 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.
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Topic Tracking: Love 1Ethan'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 astronger 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 remarkabout how he must shave every morning, he knows that she understands Ethan and Mattie's affections for each other. Zeena knows he only started shaving regularly when Mattie came to Starkfield.
Denis Eady asks Mattie if he can take her home. An eavesdropping Ethan is scared, then happy again as Mattie refuses Denis's offer. He rushes to catch up with Mattie, and they head home. They passthe field with the big hill and the elm tree, where the local people sled, and Ethan promises to take her sledding one day.
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Mattie's constant extremes in moods affect Ethan so much that he has to assure himself that she does care for him. He wishes that he could tell her how he feels, how he ardently longs for her affection; he wishes that he could be as free andopen with his feelings as Mattie is with hers. An angry Mattie asks Ethan if he wants her to leave.
Topic Tracking: Love 3
As they continue walking in silence, the passing countryside is as somber and bleak as their conversation. Ethan asks her if she wants to leave, to which Mattie replies, "Where'd I go, if I did?" Chapter 2, pg. 49. Ethan, joyous from Mattie's response, feels warm and secureabout his future. They pass the Frome graveyard on their way to the house. Ethan usually believes that the spirits of the graveyard seem to call out to him, "We never got away - how should you?" Chapter 2, pg. 50. With Mattie by his side, the sight of the gravestones comforts him. Ethan envisions that he and Mattie will lie there together in death.
Topic Tracking: Death and Isolation 3
TopicTracking: Environment 6
When they reach home, they find that Zeena has not left the key out for them as she always does. While they try to figure out a way to get inside the house, Zeena opens the door and startles them. Mattie, her lips, cheeks, and scarf a matching red, enters the house, in sharp contrast to the cold and sullen Zeena.
Topic Tracking: Colors 2
The sight of Zeena shakes Ethan...
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