Ethan Frome, a novel by Edith Wharton, is a story about a man named Ethan who is trapped in a loveless marriage and a bleak life in the rural town of Starkfield, Massachusetts. Throughout the novel, Wharton uses symbols to convey the themes of isolation, frustration, and the consequences of choices.
One of the main symbols in the novel is the pickle dish. The pickle dish represents Ethan's trapped and unfulfilled life. Ethan's wife, Zeena, is constantly moving the pickle dish around the house, never allowing Ethan to find a place of peace or comfort. The dish is also a reminder of the unhappy marriage that Ethan is trapped in and his inability to escape.
Another significant symbol in the novel is the red scarf. The red scarf represents passion and desire, something that Ethan has never experienced in his life. The scarf belongs to Mattie, Ethan's cousin, who is a vibrant and lively young woman. When Ethan sees the scarf, it serves as a reminder of what he is missing in his own life and what he could have had if he had made different choices.
The winter setting of the novel is also a symbol of Ethan's isolation and despair. The cold, snowy landscape reflects the loneliness and hopelessness that Ethan feels. The weather is so severe that it is almost impossible for Ethan to leave Starkfield, further trapping him in his miserable existence.
Finally, the symbol of the broken pickle dish represents the breaking point for Ethan. The pickle dish, which has been a constant presence in Ethan's life, is shattered after a confrontation between Ethan and Zeena. The breaking of the dish signifies the breaking of Ethan's spirit and his inability to go on living in such a unhappy and unfulfilling life.
In conclusion, the symbols in Ethan Frome play a significant role in conveying the themes of isolation, frustration, and the consequences of choices. The pickle dish, red scarf, winter setting, and broken pickle dish all serve to illustrate Ethan's trapped and unhappy existence and the difficult choices he must make in order to find happiness.