chapter one and two
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Poverty's harshness is a recurring theme: because of financial limitations, Ethan had no choice but to return home and care for his mother and the farm. Poverty also brings Mattie Silver to the Frome farm, and after the accident it will force her to stay there. The major events of Ethan's life have not been choices: things have happened to him, and he has been forced to endure them. At one point we see him in the cold, watching the dance from the outside, looking through a window at happiness he does not share. His poverty, circumstances, and sensitive disposition have left him isolated. His marriage is a loveless match with a sick and whining woman.