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It was stated in the book that his wife had the upper hand in the house by the line "Now she [his wife] had mastered him [Ethan] and he obeyed her." Ethan just could not find the right things to say and it was because of his failure of not being able to stand up to his wife, he was going to lose the only thing that made him happy.
Since his wife was continuously ill, and her cousin needed a place to stay, they took her in to help around the house.
Ethan took an immediate propensity to her cousin, Mattie, because she brought a bright light upon his dismal day.
Being married to the wrong person proved to be Ethan's first failure.
Ethan's second failure was not being able to stand up against his wife.
He seemed to have found someone that cared for him, was always happy and could share his youth, unlike his sickly wife who always nagged him.
He longed to be with Mattie, however he had loyalty to his wife.Ethan Frome is more clearly understood in the context of Wharton’s personal life.In 1908, she began a passionate adulterous affair with Morton Fullerton.Ethan could not find the words to make her alter her decision.His wife also decided that Mattie had to leave the next day itself and Ethan could not do anything about it.This, however, at times proves to be hard because of Ethan's wifes interference. The main theme of the book is failure, and this is shown through marrying his wife, not being able to stand up to his wife, and his involvement concerning the "smash up." The first way failure is shown in the book is through the marriage of Ethan and his wife.He married her because she had tried to help his mother recover from an illness, and once his mother died he could not bear the thought of living in the house alone.His wife claimed that a new doctor said that she was extremely sick, and needed more help around the house.She told him without any discussion that Mattie had to go.by Edith Wharton Ethan Frome was published in 1911, when Wharton was already an established and successful writer.She lived primarily in Paris between 1905 and the outbreak of World War II, and these years were productive.