Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Life of Ethan and Zeena Today

The Life of Ethan and Zeena Today If Ethan and Zeena lived in todays modern world their lives would be different because gender roles, social customs, and divorce customs are different from the nineteenth century. Reasons for Isolation during the nineteenth century Environmental factors Technology Life in the nineteenth century Womens roles Marriage responsibilities Education Work Mens roles Marriage responsibilities Education Work Divorce Social customs rates Life in Todays World Womens Roles Mens Roles Divorce Social customs Zeenas nineteenth century life vs. her modern life Married life Financial situation Education Social life Ethans nineteenth century life vs. his modern life Married life Financial situation Education Social life Zeenas and Ethans Lives compared to Todays Modern Age In Edith Whartons Ethan Frome, Ethan and Zeena suffer because of the social expectancy during the nineteenth century. People who lived in rural areas during the nineteenth century were very isolated and had little interaction with neighbors. Life during the nineteenth century was based on social status and customs. Marriage was believed to be a womens main purpose in life. Women had no choice, but to seek marriage because women had little opportunities to work and were expected to live from a husbands income. If Ethan and Zeena lived in todays modern world their lives would be different because gender roles, social customs, and divorce customs are different from the nineteenth century. Isolation played a major factor in the characters lives during the nineteenth century. Isolation was very frequent in rural areas. People who lived in rural areas had little knowledge of social interaction. One reason for isolation in rural communities was population decline (Frome 126). Population had decreased because people moved to larger cities were more jobs and better technology was offered. Farmers who decided to stay in their farms with their families, lived in smaller, emptier communities (Frome 126). People ended up very isolated because the environment was lonely with very few residents. People were not able to interact because the isolation in the environment was very depressing. Married couples spent most of the time with each other in isolated farms. Life was very depressing for people who lived in rural communities. Secondly, technology was one of the causes for isolation in rural New England. Ethan Frome states: Both the telephone and automobile would greatly reduce feelings of isolation once they came to rural areas; people would be able to converse with neighbors much more easily and travel to nearby towns. However, it took a long time for these inventions to reach even middle-class homes in isolated areas such as the one in Ethan Frome. In fact, phone and automobiles would not come to many farm families until the mid-1910s, after the time of the novel.(128) People were very isolated in rural New England because they did not have many luxuries we have today like the telephone, cars, and computers. Life during the nineteenth century was very oppressing for men and women. Gender roles were very precise during that era. According to Elizabeth Ammons, women were not allowed to vote during the Ethan Frome era (n.pag.). Women faced discrimination during the nineteenth century because men were considered the authority of the household. Women depended on men for income, food, and shelter (Frome126).Women roles during the nineteenth century were very different from todays modern world. Women had to deal with many hard situations. For example, A wifes responsibilities included a comfortable home, performing household chores, and bearing and caring for children. She was expected to remain chaste, modest and frugal in household expenses and to abstain from conduct that reflected badly on her home or her husbands good name (Frome 126). Women were treated like animals because they were not allowed to have a decent human life. Women did not have the opportunity in making decisions. Life for women was very sad because women had no rights on their persona. Women had a very hard role in life because they were expected to follow the gender roles that society imposed. Education is another factor that affected womens lives during the nineteenth century. Women rarely had an education and if they did they were not allowed to work (Frome126). If women did not have an education there was no way they could make a living without a man. Women felt obligated to their husbands because they had no way of earning an income. Womens only education included housewife duties, which were the only things they knew how to do. Mens roles were very significant in rural New England. Men had big responsibilities because It was the duty of husbands like Ethan Frome to provide their families with the necessities of life, to treat their wives with courtesy, and to behave responsibly in financial affairs (Frome126). The mans main purpose was to take care of his wife economically. Men knew that a woman could not live by herself during that era; there was no way she could survive by herself. Men felt obligated to his wife because society imposed it. Many men feared of violating social norms because they treated social norms as laws. Men thought if they violated societal rules they were breaking the law. It is known that men were the ones who usually had an education and if they did not, they usually worked outside of the home like in Ethans case. Men had more opportunities of receiving an education than women. Many critics say that during the Ethan Frome era, divorce was rare and socially criticized. Many couples who did not love each other felt forced to live with one another because of societal rules. Many couples during the Ethan Frome era did not divorce because divorces became permissible after that era. Life in todays world is very different from the nineteenth century. Today womens roles are not like back then. In todays world women have the same rights as men. There are many women that decide living in singlehood. Many women live better lives in singlehood because some women are not wife like. Women do not depend on men for a living. Womens roles in todays era do include housewife duties but not all women work as housewives. Many women today are the ones who provide the family financially and some men do the duty of a housewife. There are also women who are single mothers that provide for their children by themselves. Many women in todays world decide to receive an education and end up receiving high salaried jobs. Today, there are laws that prohibit job discrimination because of gender, race, or color. Many women today have better work positions than males. In todays modern world women are admired for working outside of home because they also perform the duty of a housewife. Mens roles are similar and different from the early nineteenth century. Some still feel obligated to provide for their families financially, and others do not. In todays modern world men do not feel obligated to stay with a person they do not love. Men do not have the same responsibilities like in Ethans case. Men know that a woman can sustain herself without him. Mens marriage responsibilities include working and providing family with love and necessities. Education for men is still viewed the same like in the nineteenth century. Many men attend school to pursuit a degree. Men in todays world are offered different types of jobs. People without an education can also have a decent living. Divorce is not seen rare in todays world. Divorces occur almost every day. Women do not feel obligated to stay married because they do not depend on a mans income for a living. Many couples divorce after a couple of months or even days. Divorce is not socially criticized like in the early nineteenth century. People think of divorce as something natural that occurs every day. Divorce rates keep on rising because some people marry too early, without having nurtured their relationship. Some people today do not take a marriage as something serious that lasts for life. Zeenas life would be different if she lived in todays modern world. Zeenas life would be different because she seems to be the type of woman that lives in singlehood. Zeena does not seem to be a good marriage partner. Zeena did not comply with a womens responsibility during the nineteenth century. According to Helen Killoran, Zeena only causes Ethan problems by complaining about her health and spending money on medicines (n.pag.). A woman was not supposed to cause her husband any financial problems like Zeena did to Ethan. Zeena believes she does not have to do house hold chores because it is Ethans duty to pay her back for all the caring she did for his parents (Travis n. pag.). Zeena would be better off alone in todays world because she only ruins her partners life by having a negative attitude. Kathy A. Fedorko describes Zeena as an adult incapable of showing or receiving love (57). In todays modern world divorced women can survive without a male partner, Zeena does not need to be stuck with Ethan. Most likely Zeena would be in better health and financially stable. Zeena has good nursing skills which would give her good income in todays world. Zeena would not have economic, social, or matriarchal problems. People today interact with one another all the time. Zeenas social isolation would not be a problem because technology in todays world has been modernized. Ethans life during the nineteenth century is very terrifying. R.B. Hovey states that, Sex among the Ethan Frome people was hardly casual; divorce if not unthinkable, was most unlikely proceeding (n. pag.). It is evident that Ethan did not have sex with his wife because she was always in bed complaining about her health. Ethan suffered in his marriage because Zeena gave him no love or intimacy. Ethan has many matriarchal responsibilities that prevent him from finding happiness with the woman he loves. Ethan feels financially obligated to Zeena because of gender differences and social norms. Ethan knows Zeena depends on him financially, therefore he cannot abandon her. Another obstacle for Ethan is his inability to break social customs. Ethan would not care of breaking social customs in todays world. Lionel Trilling believes Ethan is trapped when he must choose between his habituated duty to his wife and his duty and inclination to the girl he loves (45). Ethans life would have more me aning if he lived in todays modern world. Ethan would not feel forced to live with a woman he does not love. Ethan would have the opportunity of meeting someone who gives him passion and tranquility. Ethan never has tranquility with Zeena because she always finds a way to make his life miserable. Ethan feels socially obligated toward Zeena. Another reason for Ethans miserable marriage is his silence. Ethan is always silent and never expresses his feeling to Zeena. Ethans financial status would also be different in todays world because Ethan would have a degree in engineering, which was one of his dreams. Ethans social life would be better because, life is not isolated like in the nineteenth century. It seems clear that the cause of Ethans isolation is the environment. Ethans house is described as being one of those lonely New England farmhouses that make the landscape seem even lonelier (Wharton 8). The houses in rural New England describe the lives of the citizens. People today interact with one another every day. Ethan always dreamed of living in a big city with big libraries, he could have fulfilled his dreams in todays world. Life during the nineteenth century was very hard because of isolation, gender roles, and responsibilities. Ethan and Zeena would be stable financially and socially because life today is extremely different from the nineteenth century. Ethan and Zeenas marriage was deteriorated because of the environment and social customs during their lifetime. People today must feel lucky to have all the luxuries such as cars and telephones that did not exist during Ethans life.

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