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Favorite but Complex Couplings

I remember in high school that, Ethan Frome, was assigned reading. The timing coincided with my fascination of episodes of The Twilight Zone. This comparison is meant with no disrespect to Edith Wharton. At the time not only did I have visual TV insight of some bizarre character behaviors but as I read this book I was captivated with the twisted turns of personalities and events that unfolded.  I was happy for the exposure to Wharton’s   exceptional writing skills and the intertwining narrative and plot development in Ethan Frome. Unexpected events with unpredictable results brought the coupling of Zeena and Ethan, and, also, Mattie and Ethan. As most people would define “favorite”

it might be difficult to understand  why I would choose the complex  characteristics of the couples in Ethan Frome as favorites. However, I think memorable brought me to this realization. Ethan, a strong character destined to be a caregiver to his parents and then to his wife, Zeena. In my mind she was a troubled and sickly woman whose very existence depended on the control that she commanded over Ethan. Mattie was a Frome household helper and attendant to Zeena’s medical concerns. She entered Ethan’s life, and he managed to dream and wish for the fulfillment of the romantic inklings that he felt for her. Zeena suspected the desired emotional build up between the two. She planned to dismiss Mattie , but Ethan and  Mattie concocted a plan to outwit Zeena. However, the outcome was desperately hindered. In the end there was no happy ending for Zeena, Ethan, or Mattie.  Perhaps this is the discovery that has kept my memory of Ethan Frome alive. Through Wharton’s words her characters gave her readers an ongoing understanding of life’s unavoidable challenges and sometimes unplanned consequences.