There may never have been a novel written about love and loss with more irony of poetry than Ethan Frome. Written almost exclusively in flashback, Ethan Frome has continued to draw attention and accolades since its publication in 1911 by famed writer Edith Wharton. When we are introduced to the novel's protagonist, we discover that he is married yet inconveniently in love with his wife's cousin, who is spending time with the family to help care for Ethan's sick wife.
As the novel progresses, Ethan humbly and quietly keeps his affections to himself, in spite of mutual feelings from his wife's cousin. After hatching a plan to elope with Mattie (the love interest) and abandoning his wife, Ethan realizes that he cannot financially accomplish his goals. With their backs to the wall, and Mattie's impending displacement on the horizon, the two lovers decide to crash a sled into a tree and enjoy their final moments embracing one another. Upon awakening, Ethan finds that he is able-bodied and alive, but the object of his desire, Mattie, is merely alive. The novel leaves us with three characters beside a fire, living together for the rest of their days, only one of which has the ability to walk.