Technology, symbolized in Ethan Frome by the railroad, was developing rapidly at the turn of the century. Cities were growing, their populations swelled by the arrival of immigrants and people from the countryside, lured by jobs in factories and mills. Young women in particular often suffered serious health problems owing to the harsh working conditions that existed before protective labor laws were passed. In rural communities, technology provided new connections to the outside world, but also caused upset and change, as shown by the arrival of the railroad, which eliminates traffic on the road to the Frome farm.
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