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Word Count: 849
The hundreds of pages in a typical novel come together to form an intricate web whose many strands may be united in the minds of readers to form different interpretations In many cases authors represent important issues or most relevant themes with symbols or metaphors Often these small symbols can be overlooked easily in a lengthy novel But as Edith Wharton brilliantly demonstrates in her novel Ethan Frome one way to effectively emphasize a books key symbol is through the storys setting The many universal themes of literature which surface in Whartons book are skillfully symbolized in the parallel she creates between the characters in the novel and the winter settingEthan Frome takes place during the winter in the rural town of Starkfield Massachusetts Like most New England towns during the 1920s cold weather and heavy snowfall make Starkfield a harsh environment for several months of the year During the winter green plants die and the leaves fall from the trees The sky turns gray and endless snow covers as far as the eye can see The Starkfield winter seems to Ethan like an inescapable power Each year it will kill everything that is beautiful and leave nothing but bitter coldness and gray The harsh environment of winter is not the only negative power in Ethans life His wife Zeena is a similar force that controls Ethan and contributes to his unhappiness Zeena is an ugly bitter old woman She first came to Starkfield to care for Ethans sick mother Ethans mother died in the early wintertime and to avoid being left alone and isolated during the lonely winter months ahead Ethan asked Zeena to marry him Later in the novel on page 29 Ethan explains It would not have happened if Mother died in spring instead of winterThe harsh winter in the story symbolizes Zeenas effect on Ethan Like the winter uses wind and snow Zeena uses lies and manipulation to control
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