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Sometimes our moral obligations and the desire for unreachable happiness holds us back from doing what we want and fulfilling our dreams. As these unfulfilled dreams pass us, a sense of regret and sometimes even guilt can take their place. In Edith Wharton’s novel Ethan Frome, the eponymous protagonist Ethan finds himself consumed in the plain, boring Massachusetts town of Starkfield, still caught up on his dreams that have passed him by. The novel follows how Ethan’s future decisions are altered by his regret of missing out on a college education, and obligations to his wife whom he does not love. Resulting from Ethan’s unfulfilled dreams, he was forced to lead a life of regret and guilt.
Ethan’s dream of leaving the bare and plain town of Starkfield never was able to become true “because he felt morally obligated to take care of his family”(Wharton 6). Not leaving Starkfield has had a significant impact of Ethan’s life. Staying on the farm previously owned by generations of his family, Ethan misses out on many things including new job opportunities and being able to just explore and learn in the world. When passing by the gravestones of his past family members, Ethan comes a cross a gravestone withSometimes our moral obligations and the desire for unreachable happiness holds us back from doing what we want and fulfilling our dreams. As these unfulfilled dreams pass us, a sense of regret and sometimes even guilt can take their place. In Edith Wharton’s novel Ethan Frome, the eponymous protagonist Ethan finds himself consumed in the plain, boring Massachusetts town of Starkfield, still caught up on his dreams that have passed him by. The novel follows how Ethan’s future decisions are altered by his regret of missing out on a college education, and obligations to his wife whom he does not love. Resulting from Ethan’s unfulfilled dreams, he was forced to lead a life of regret and guilt.
Ethan’s dream of leaving the bare and plain town of Starkfield never was able to become true “because he felt morally obligated to take care of his family”(Wharton 6). Not leaving Starkfield has had a significant impact of Ethan’s life. Staying on the farm previously owned by generations of his family, Ethan misses out on many things including new job opportunities and being able to just explore and learn in the world. When passing by the gravestones of his past family members, Ethan comes a cross a gravestone with a similar situation to his and begins to ponder the idea that “the same epitaph would be written over him and Zeena”.(70) Being bound to the boring and life-removing Starkfield, Ethan is forced to lose hope in the future and live a life of repetition and redundancy.
Towards the beginning of the book, we find out that when asked if he had interest in biochemistry, Ethan replies with “It used to”.(Wharton 14) This shows that what once interested From has now changed as life’s unpredictable course continued. Ethan’s dream of going to college and becoming an engineer and biochemist by the same two forces restricting him from living his ideal life of adventure and true love. Ethan’s morals and obligations to Zeena kept him in line from fulfilling his dreams and prevented a lot of potential life opportunities.
Ethan soon finds himself in love with Mattie, his wife Zeena’s relative. Seeing as Ethan is married to Zeena, Ethan can not run away and be happy with his true love Mattie. Trapped between these two impassible barricades of love and true desire, and morals and obligations to Zeena. This feeling of being trapped caused Ethan to feel as though he was “a prisoner for life”.(Wharton 117) Ethan’s Dream is to run away with Mattie and leave Zeena behind and in the past. Towards the end of the book, Ethan finally decided to break his moral obligations and attempt suicide with Mattie. This way, they could be together for ever and ever without Zeena to worry about. However, at the last minute, Ethan thinks of Zeena as Mattie and him are wizzing into a tree. As Ethan’s morals flood back into him he swerves the sled away from the tree but still crashes into another tree, paralyzing Mattie and turns Ethan into the “ruin of a man”(Wharton 3) he is today. Ethans desire for a life with Mattie caused physical and psychological damage to Ethan, affecting his way of life.
Missed opportunities, regret, and guilt are the results of Ethan’s unfulfilled dreams and desires. The regret of Ethan Frome’s unfulfilled dreams still echo and haunt his actions of this day to day life.
a similar situation to his and begins to ponder the idea that “the same epitaph would be written over him and Zeena”.(70) Being bound to the boring and life-removing Starkfield, Ethan is forced to lose hope in the future and live a life of repetition and redundancy.
Towards the beginning of the book, we find out that when asked if he had interest in biochemistry, Ethan replies with “It used to”.(Wharton 14) This shows that what once interested From has now changed as life’s unpredictable course continued. Ethan’s dream of going to college and becoming an engineer and biochemist by the same two forces restricting him from living his ideal life of adventure and true love. Ethan’s morals and obligations to Zeena kept him in line from fulfilling his dreams and prevented a lot of potential life opportunities.
Ethan soon finds himself in love with Mattie, his wife Zeena’s relative. Seeing as Ethan is married to Zeena, Ethan can not run away and be happy with his true love Mattie. Trapped between these two impassible barricades of love and true desire, and morals and obligations to Zeena. This feeling of being trapped caused Ethan to feel as though he was “a prisoner for life”.(Wharton 117) Ethan’s Dream is to run away with Mattie and leave Zeena behind and in the past. Towards the end of the book, Ethan finally decided to break his moral obligations and attempt suicide with Mattie. This way, they could be together for ever and ever without Zeena to worry about. However, at the last minute, Ethan thinks of Zeena as Mattie and him are wizzing into a tree. As Ethan’s morals flood back into him he swerves the sled away from the tree but still crashes into another tree, paralyzing Mattie and turns Ethan into the “ruin of a man”(Wharton 3) he is today. Ethans desire for a life with Mattie caused physical and psychological damage to Ethan, affecting his way of life.
Missed opportunities, regret, and guilt are the results of Ethan’s unfulfilled dreams and desires. The regret of Ethan Frome’s unfulfilled dreams still echo and haunt his actions of this day to day life.

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