- Ethan Frome is a novel published in 1911 by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Edith Wharton. It is set in the fictitious town of Starkfield, Massachusetts, where an unnamed narrator tells the story of his encounter with Ethan Frome, a man with dreams and desires that end in an ironic turn of events. The narrator tells the story based on an account from observations at Frome's house when he had to stay there during a winter storm. Frome is described as “the most striking figure in Starkfield”, “the ruin of a man” with a “careless powerful look…in spite of a lameness checking each step like the jerk of a chain”. The narrator fails to get many details from the townspeople. However, the narrator hires him as his driver for a week. A severe snowstorm forces Frome to take the narrator to his home one night for shelter. Just as the two are entering Frome's house, the first chapter ends. The second chapter flashes back twenty years; the narration switches from the first-person narrator of the first chapter to an omniscient third-person narrator. Ethan is waiting outside a church dance for Mattie, his wife’s cousin, who lives with Ethan and his wife Zeena (Zenobia) to help around the house since Zeena is sickly. Mattie is given the occasional night off to entertain herself in town as partial recompense for taking care of the Frome family without pay, and Ethan has fallen into the habit of walking her home. It is made clear that Ethan has deep feelings for Mattie, and it is equally clear that Zeena suspects these feelings and does not approve. Zeena informs Ethan that she plans to send Mattie away and hire a more efficient girl to replace her, as her health is failing even more rapidly. Ethan returns to the farm, picking up Mattie to go to the train station. They stop at a hill upon which they had once proposed to go sledding, and they decide to go through with the sledding despite the dangers of the trees. After their first run, Mattie suggests a suicide pact; that they run themselves into a tree so they may spend their last moments together. Ethan resists the notion, but then finally agrees, and they take the ride down together. On the way down, a vision of Zeena's face makes Ethan try to turn aside at the last moment, but he recovers and hits the elm tree. Instead of both of them being killed, Ethan regains consciousness after the accident and, dazed and confused, finds Mattie lying beside him fully paralyzed and moaning in pain. Additionally, Ethan is partially paralyzed, finding movement to be difficult. This was the so-called "smash-up" introduced at the beginning of the novel. The final chapter switches back to the first-person narrator point of view of the first chapter, as Frome and the narrator walk into the Frome household two decades later. The tables are turned; Mattie's personality has "soured" and Zeena now must care for her and Ethan.