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A research paper on Ethan Frome presents the opportunity to look at literature from the view of the early 20th Century Victorian Era Romantics. Written by Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome is set in Massachusetts and is representative of the transition of thought from rigid Victorian mores to the more romantic notions of the industrial era that was blossoming in the United States. When researching Ethan Frome, be sure to include this fact, as it is central to the novel's theme and the writer's entire genre of literature.
The plot, setting and characters of the story are simply woven to tell the tale of a farmer, doomed to the fields after taking a sickly bride out of pity and gratitude. Instead of advancing his college education, Ethan Frome cares for his wife on his parent's farm. When his wife's cousin comes to help out with the farm and daily chores, they fall in love. This simple plot represents common themes in Wharton's literature, namely, being torn between duty and love, between urban settings and rural land and between what is morally considered "right" and what is "right" for the self. Be sure to see the big picture of the character's conflicts when writing a research paper on Ethan Frome.
Literature of the early 20th century contains many of the same themes that Wharton's novel contains. In writing an essay for an English 101 course or for an Introductory class in American Literature, be sure to look at the overriding themes that the story contains and place them in the context of other works of literature, either written at the same time or by the same author. It is also very good to use primary sources to back up your thesis. For example, when writing on Ethan Frome, you could use a newspaper article from the same time-frame or look at the dress of the day to illustrate the transition from Victorian era dress to the Romantic era. Use your imagination, as there are many themes in Ethan Frome and it is an easy novel to impress a professor with your overreaching knowledge of the literary era.