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Ethan is completely boxed in, and Wharton's determinism becomes oppressive. He has no options: as he sits in his study planning an escape, he realizes that what worked for another man will not work for him. He simply does not have the resources. The reality of his situation continues to torment him. He feels trapped. Ethan can't find an honorable way to save his happiness. I think the glue is a symbol of unfulfilled longing and isolation. Ethan simply can't find glue in town. From Ethan's desire to leave town to the attempt to buy glue to the doomed passion between Ethan and Mattie, the novel is full of frustrated desires and unfulfilled plans.