Ethan Frome

Restraints on Desire in Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence

Human nature has always been tempted by the irresistible emotion of desire, and as perfectly said by Benedict de Spinoza, "Desire is the very essence of man". Although various degrees of desire can be achieved in our society, there are still many barriers that hinder the accomplishment of desire. Two men- Ethan Frome and Newland Archer- whose desires are tragically unfulfilled, ideally represent the effect of society's critical eye. Although under different social circumstances, the two men equally share the pain of unobtainable passion. The question of morals also markedly affects these two men in profound ways. In Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence, society and morality are seen as restraints for the fulfillment of desire.

Described as a reserved and subdued man, Ethan Frome's bleak environment sets the stage for imposing restraints against him. Although he loves Mattie, Ethan's feelings are clearly held back due to his surroundings. Zeena- Ethan's wife and biggest opponent- is his greatest obstacle. Because of Zeena, Ethan felt "he was a prisoner for life, and now his one ray of light [Mattie ] was to be extinguished" (Wharton 107). Also, Zeena's pervasive presence...

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