Ethan Frome Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

''Ethan Frome'' is a popular and highly lauded novel, but it can also present many challenging themes for students. These questions will help guide your class through a discussion about this story.

Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome is a 1911 novel by the famed American author Edith Wharton (the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction). This story deals in themes of remorse, bitterness, and pain that is both emotional and physical. With its literary tone and themes, it's generally recommended for high school students, and that's the intended audience of these discussion questions.

Questions about Characters and Plot

  • Who is Ethan Frome? What is the very first thing we learn about Ethan Frome? How is he introduced? How is he described? If you had to condense Ethan Frome's entire personality into a few adjectives, what words would you choose?
  • Who is Zeena? How are we introduced to Zeena? What is she like? How is she described? What are her character traits?
  • Who is Mattie? How is Mattie described? What are the defining differences between Mattie and Zeena? What do they have in common? What does Mattie have in common with Ethan?
  • In one sentence, describe the plot of Ethan Frome. What is this book about?
  • Where does the tension and conflict arise from in this book? How is that conflict established? What impact does it have on the characters and their relationships? How is the conflict in the story resolved? Is it resolved?
  • What are Ethan Frome's biggest limitations? What's holding him back? Why is he unable to change his life, despite constantly imagining doing so? Is he purely a victim of circumstance?
  • How have each of the characters changed by the end of the book?
  • Who is the narrator in this story? How is the narrator's perspective established? What impact does it have on how this story is told?

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