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The image of the butterfly, which has defied the cold and death of winter symbolizes freedom; freedom that Ethan is unable to attain because he is trapped in a loveless marriage.
The name is also symbolic of the stark and carefully composed prose Wharton used to write the story.
Other symbols include the dead vine on the front porch of Fromes' farmhouse that symbolizes the dead and dying spirits that inhabit the house and its adjacent graveyard, the farmhouse itself that has lost the "L" seems to be symbolic of Ethan (the house looks "forlorn" and "lonely"), it stands alone without support — isolated and lonely.
The figurative language used by Wharton includes metaphors and similes.
Metaphors compare two unlike things without using words of comparison (such as like or as).
Mattie's change in mood reminds Ethan of "the flit of a bird in the branches" and he feels that walking with her is similar to "floating on a summer stream." Later in the novel, when Ethan goes downstairs to tell Mattie that she will have to leave their house, their conversation has the effect of "a torch of warning" in a "black landscape." Similes, comparisons of two unlike things that use words of comparison such as like or as, are direct comparisons that Wharton uses throughout the novel. " As Mattie and Ethan approach their crippling accident, darkness prevails over the imagery.
At the beginning of the novel, Ethan's perception of Mattie's face is "like a window that has caught the sunset," and later, he thinks her face seems "like a wheat field under a summer breeze." As Ethan and Mattie walk home from the dance, Ethan reveals to Mattie that he had been hiding while she talked to Denis Eady. Darkness comes, "dropping down like a black veil from the heavy hemlock boughs." The black veil causes the reader to think of a funeral.For example, in the beginning of the novel, Wharton gives readers the feeling of the bitterness and hardness of the winter by setting the constellation, Orion, in a "sky of iron." When Ethan and Mattie enter the Frome household after walking home, the kitchen has "the deadly chill of a vault after the dry cold of the night." This image is appropriate to the living death that Ethan and Mattie experience in the years after their accident. The imagery associated with Zeena is bleak and cold also.When Ethan sees her before her trip to Bettsbridge, she sits in "the pale light reflected from the banks of snow," which makes "her face look more than usually drawn and bloodless." In contrast, the imagery associated with Mattie is associated with summer and natural life.Throwing it across the floor symbolizes his growing rejection of Zeena and his desire to run away with Mattie.Ethan thinks Mattie's hair is one of her most beautiful features; it is symbolic of her free, happy, and open personality.He would have liked to linger on, watching her warmly tidy up and then settle down..." (49) This insight helps us as readers to truly understand the way Ethan feels from a different perspective and opens the gates for us to further continue learning about his emotions In contrast to the way Ethan's feelings are portrayed toward Mattie, Wharton uses dark and cold imagery to illustrate how Ethan feels toward Zeena. She seems to have the effect of bringing down those who are aro...Figurative Language Wharton establishes patterns of imagery by using figurative language — language meant to be taken figuratively as well as literally.In the novel Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton uses setting and nature to describe the characters' emotions in lieu of dialogue.Edith Wharton often uses imagery involving light and warmth to portray Ethan Frome's true feelings for Mattie Silver.The symbols used by Wharton in Ethan Frome reinforce the themes of silence, isolation, and entrapment; feelings that Ethan experiences in his marriage.Removing #book# from your Reading List will also remove any bookmarked pages associated with this title.