Summary That night, after Ethan is sure Zeena is asleep, he goes downstairs to his again, but on the way he meets Mrs. Hale who is sympathetic towards him. Mattie to the train station, Wharton does not bring Zeena into the action again. and find homework help for other Ethan Frome questions at eNotes. By the time the narrator met Ethan, he had been married to Zeena for 31 years. In Edith Wharton's novel Ethan Frome, what does Zeena fail to do when Ethan brings. Need help with Chapter 4 in Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome? Just as he does nothing in the face of the illness he suspects that Zeena is faking, now he Ethan's heart sinks as he imagines that Denis is on his way to the farm to meet Mattie.
Ethan's passivity causes him to accept setbacks too easily. Though he suspects Zeena of faking her illness, he uses it as an excuse to do nothing.
Wharton implies that Zeena got "ill" because she couldn't bear moving to a larger town where Ethan would be out of her control. Active Themes After a while, Zeena had stopped talking almost entirely, except to complain. Ethan wonders if Zeena is going crazy like his mother and many other women who lived on isolated farms.
But at other times he wonders if maybe she is deliberately holding her tongue and plotting revenge. The isolation of New England farms was particularly hard on women, who were confined to their houses with domestic chores, whereas the men had more opportunities to socialize when they conducted business.
Active Themes Related Quotes with Explanations Not wanting to be caught in the lie he has told to Zeena, Ethan goes to Andrew Hale with his load of lumber and asks for an advance payment, even though he knows Hale never pays sooner than three months after delivery. Hale refuses politely, explaining he needs the money for his son's upcoming wedding to Ruth Varnum.
Ethan's pride keeps him from pursuing the matter, and he leaves without the money. Ethan's typical New England simplicity and rigid code of ethics prevent him from looking after his own interests.
Just as he does nothing in the face of the illness he suspects that Zeena is faking, now he doesn't protest or insist on payment from Hale. In the village Ethan is passed by Denis Eady in his father's cutter a fancy sled for the time. Ethan's heart sinks as he imagines that Denis is on his way to the farm to meet Mattie. Retrieving his horses from Andrew Hale's stable, he surprises Ned Hale and Ruth Varnum secretly kissing at the top of the hill where he and Mattie paused the night before—the couple, startled, quickly part.
The sight of Ned and Ruth quickly parting when Ethan appears is a reminder of New England society's strict rules regarding male-female relations. But it is also a reminder that Ned and Ruth were willing to break those rules for love. Active Themes On the way home, Ethan passes the Frome graveyard again and sees the headstone of his namesake, another Ethan Frome, and his wife, named Endurance.
The inscription on their headstone reads: The name "Endurance" suggests the only course of action open to husbands and wives in an unhappy marriage, in a time when divorce was rare and against most people's religious principles. Active Themes The farmhouse door is locked—then Mattie opens the door, silhouetted in lamplight as Zeena had been the night before.
She has run a crimson ribbon through her hair. The table is carefully laid for supper, with Ethan's favorite pickles in a red glass pickle -dish. The room is warm and bright, and Zeena's cat lies contentedly by the fire. He recalls the story of a man who left his wife by fleeing to the West with his lover and leaving his farm to his wife. Ethan thinks the plan is a good one and begins to write a note of explanation to Zeena. He realizes that money is a problem. He doesn't have money for train fare for himself and Mattie, and Zeena would not be able to get any money from the sale of the farm or mill.
Mattie finds him sleeping in his study the next morning. He gets up and they begin the morning chores. At breakfast, Zeena confirms her decision of the previous night by telling Jotham that Daniel Byrne is going to pick up Mattie's trunk and take it to the train station.
Ethan decides to ask Andrew Hale for the money owed him once again, but on the way he meets Mrs.
Hale who is sympathetic towards him. He realizes that he can't ask for the money and must accept the reality of the situation. While he's home for lunch, Ethan defies Zeena and refuses to allow Jotham to drive Mattie to the train station, insisting that he drive Mattie himself. Zeena retires to her bedroom, and Mattie and Ethan begin their journey to the train station. Ethan tries to tell Mattie of his wish to run away with her, and she produces the note he'd written the night before that she'd found in his study.
They confirm that their imagined love for each other is real. They arrive at the sledding hill and decide to make good on the plans they had to go sledding together. After they successfully coast down the hill once, they kiss good-bye. Because they don't wish to be separated, ever, they decide to commit suicide by sledding into the elm tree. As they start down the hill and approach the elm tree, Ethan has an ugly vision of Zeena's face that causes him to swerve the sled; but he resumes the course and steers the sled into the elm tree.
As Ethan regains consciousness, his vision returns and he tries to determine if the star he is looking at is Sirius. As his hearing returns, he hears the sound of a small animal calling out in pain. He becomes aware that the sound is coming from under his hand, which is on Mattie's face in the snow.
He hears his horse whinny and is reminded that the horse needs to be fed. Analysis When Ethan goes to his study and lays down on the sofa, a cushion that Zeena made for him — the only piece of needlework that Zeena had ever done — pokes him in the cheek. Ethan throws the cushion across the room. His action is symbolic of his growing rejection of Zeena.
He thinks of going West with Mattie and of escaping from Zeena, but realizes that he is a prisoner of circumstance. Wharton uses the image of captivity to convey Ethan's feeling of despair; "the inexorable facts closed in on him like prison-warders handcuffing a convict," "he was a prisoner for life.
Ethan Frome Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
Wharton contrasts Ethan's gloom with a sudden, mocking illumination of the night sky as the "pure moon" reveals all the natural beauty of the landscape that Ethan associates with Mattie.
The moon also foreshadows the sledding accident as Ethan remembers that this is the night when he had promised to take Mattie sledding. After Mattie finds him and they begin the morning chores, things don't seem so bleak to Ethan.
His self-deceptive optimism about Mattie takes over his thoughts, and despite his earlier realization that Zeena's decision is unchangeable, he decides that things are not hopeless and that he can find a way to keep Mattie at home with him. At breakfast when Zeena confirms to Jotham that Mattie would definitely be leaving, Ethan's subservience to her is again evident.
He does not mention his thoughts or intentions. He fails, once again, to assert himself over his wife. Again, Ethan feels defeated. His reaction is to rebel against Zeena. He is determined to do something to change the situation.
He decides to go to Andrew Hale once again for the money he is owed, but on the way, he meets Mrs. Hale, who is sympathetic towards him.
His conscience prevents him from asking for the money. Wharton makes it clear that Ethan is inescapably bound within the segment of society that he inhabits. Part of his tragedy is that his aspirations and dreams would take him beyond the icy world of Starkfield. His fate, however, is to serve out his life chained to a frigid, quarrelsome wife and to the crippled remains of a once beautiful girl. Wharton makes sure that there is no possible alternative of escape in Ethan's mind when he is faced with the decision of whether or not to attempt suicide with Mattie.
His conscience forces him to turn away from the Hales and to return to the farm. After Ethan confronts Zeena and insists that he will drive Mattie to the train station, Wharton does not bring Zeena into the action again.