Ethan Frome


Edith Wharton

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Ethan Frome

The protagonist of the novel and its tragic hero, Ethan is 28 years old in the main narrative and 52 years old in the frame story. According to the Narrator, he is a tall… read analysis of Ethan Frome

Zenobia (Zeena) Frome

Ethan's wife, who is 35 at the time of the main narrative, is described as "already an old woman," with false teeth, wrinkles, a skeletal physique, and a sallow complexion. Ethan was dazzled by… read analysis of Zenobia (Zeena) Frome

Mattie Silver

Zeena's vivacious 21-year-old cousin, who comes to live with the Fromes when her parents die and leave her penniless. With no education or job skills, Mattie is forced to rely on the charity of… read analysis of Mattie Silver

The Narrator

An engineer who is temporarily residing in Starkfield while assigned to work at a nearby power plant, and who is sympathetic to Ethan's troubles. Wharton's use of a narrator who is an outsider in… read analysis of The Narrator
Minor Characters
Mrs. Ned Hale (Ruth Varnum)
As a young woman, a close friend of Mattie's. In the frame story, she is the Narrator's landlady. Initially reluctant to reveal what she knows about the tragedy, she is nonetheless the source of many important details, and confirms the Narrator's story.
Harmon Gow
A former stagecoach driver. He's the first to provide information about Ethan to the Narrator, and it is he who suggests that the narrator hire Ethan as a driver.
Denis Eady
An arrogant young man, the son of Michael Eady, a wealthy Starkfield grocer. Until Ethan learns the true nature of Mattie's feelings, he feels inferior to Denis and threatened by Denis's romantic pursuit of Mattie.
Jotham Powell
A hired man at the Frome farm. A quiet fellow who follows Zeena's orders to get rid of Mattie.
Andrew Hale
A Starkfield builder who buys lumber from Ethan. He has a reputation for never paying until three months after delivery.
Mrs. Andrew Hale
Andrew Hale's wife and Ned Hale's mother. A kindly, sympathetic woman.
Ned Hale
Ruth Varnum's fiancé and later her husband, and son of Andrew and Mrs. Andrew Hale. He has died by the time the Narrator comes to Starkfield.
Aunt Martha Pierce
Zeena's relative, whom she goes to stay with in Bettsbridge.
Old Mrs. Varnum
Ruth's mother and the wife of Lawyer Varnum. She appears only in the frame story.
Michael Eady
A rich Starkfield grocer. Denis Eady's father.
Mrs. Homan
Owner of a grocery store, where Ethan buys glue to fix the broken pickle-dish.