Muhlenberg Community Library

AP English: Ethan Frome Discussion


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1. Identify some similarities and differences between the young Ethan described in Chapters 1-3 and the older Ethan that the narrator is so curious about.

2. Describe the relationships between/among the three people in the Frome household.

3. The narrator, thinking the look on Ethan’s face can have been put there neither by “poverty nor physical suffering”, finds an explanation that satisfies him. Disregarding these two afflictions, explain what Ethan’s heaviest cross seems to be.

4. Explain who causes Ethan more turmoil - Mattie or Zeena.

5. How powerful a force is the setting (time and place) in determining the livings of the characters? Think about Starkfield’s climate, geography, resources, and economy. Think also about the choices available to the characters in that time period compared to the choices available to people today.

6. Why were both Harmon Gow and Ruth Hale necessary as sources of information? How did their contributions essentially differ?

7. Who or what is most responsible for the tragic events of the novel? Think about the choices that each character makes and the external circumstances that limit the character’s choices.

8. What effect does the point of view of the narration have on your reading and understanding of the novel? Think about the first-person narration of the prologue and the epilogue, the use of third-person limited narration in Chapters 1-9, and the advantages and disadvantages of using two points of view. Does the story gain or lose by having it abstracted bit by bit from different persons?

9. What purpose does the cat serve? Could the author have achieved the same effect without the cat’s presence? Defend your answer.

10. What roles do silence, listening, failure to listen, and inability to communicate play in the novel? Relate these ideas to each of the three main characters.

11. State the conflict in the novel; enumerate the steps in the conflict, showing the elements in each step which compound Ethan’s frustration.

12. Discuss Mattie either as a basically weak or a basically strong character: support your opinion with evidence. Why does the author make the initial contrast between her and Zeena so great?

13. Think about the three main characters in the novel. Discuss how much power each one has to change his 3or her life for the better, regardless of whether that character actually uses--or even recognizes--that power.

14. Analyze Zeena’s and Mattie’s techniques for getting their own way. Which methods or techniques are more obvious to the reader; which are less obvious? Which were more obvious to Ethan; which, less?

15. Ethan has two experiences away from Starkfield. Describe each of these events and explain why the author chose these particular experiences as the two which take Ethan from Starkfield.