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Husband to Zeena. Ethan pursued studies in science and technology very briefly after high school, but his father's death and his mother's illness forced him back to the Frome farm. Poverty and responsibility have prevented him from leaving Starkfield. After his mother's death, he hastily married Zeena out of loneliness; she quickly became as sickly and silent as his mother had been. Ethan is stirred back to life by the arrival of Mattie Silver, Zeena's cousin.
By the time the narrator meets Ethan, he is the "ruin of a man." Lame, grizzled, and bearing a tortured expression on his face, the old Frome fascinates the narrator, who sets out to learn his story.
Ethan's sickly, hypochondriac wife. Years ago, while Ethan's mother was dying, Zeena came to help care for her. After the death of Ethan's mother, Ethan could not bear the thought of being alone in winter at the Frome farm. He asked Zeena to marry him. They had plans to leave Starkfield, but within a short time Zeena became sickly and difficult. She speaks in a flat whine, and although she is only seven years older than Ethan, she is described as already being an old woman.
Zeena's cousin. An orphan and a pauper, Mattie came to the Frome farm to be Zeena's help. She also has nowhere else to go. With her sweet disposition, charm, and beauty, she brings life back into the Frome farm. Ethan falls in love with her, but he does not know if the feelings are reciprocated.