Edith Warthon was born in New York City into a very wealthy family. She was forced into a loveless marriage and eventually fell in love with another man. Her life closely resembles the two books she wrote–Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome. Age of Innocence was a novel by Edith Warthon that was turned into a movie. Newland was about to marry May when May’s cousin Ellen came from Europe to New York. Newland found himself wanting to be with Ellen rather than May. Ethan Frome was very similar to Age of Innocence and was the story of a poor man, his wife, and her cousin who find themselves in a love conflict.
Ethan was married to Zeena, his very ill wife. In order for Ethan to continue to work, Zeena’s cousin, Mattie, came to take care of her. Ethan instantly fell for the young, charming, and beautiful Mattie. The film and the novel share similarities in the representation of symbolism and jealousy in the main characters yet differ in how their love affairs were resolved. Both Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome shared similar symbolism. To start with, in Age of Innocence, Newland and May attend an opera. In this opera the man kissed the brown string on the women’s dress as he walked away from her.
He needed to leave her because they should not be together, just like Newland and Ellen should not be together because he was engaged to her cousin. This compared to the part in Ethan Frome, when Mattie knitted the brown stuff and Ethan kissed it. Mattie pulled the brown stuff away from Ethan before long. This symbolized the fact that Ethan needed to leave her because he was married to Zeena for seven years. These parts are related because they both symbolize a love that needed to be forgotten, a love that needed to be left in the past. Secondly, Newland and Ethan are very similar.
In Age of Innocence, Newland encouraged Ellen to stay in New York and not go back to her husband. Although Newland was engaged to be married he wanted her to himself. He did everything he could to get her to stay away from her ex-husband. Her ex-husband begged and pleaded for her to come back and Newland got jealous and convinced her to stay. In Ethan Frome, Zeena mentioned that Mattie would soon leave and would maybe wed Dennis Eady. Ethan soon became furious and said she would never marry him and she would never leave Zeena when she needed her–or more importantly him. Dennis Eady! If that’s all, I guess, there’s no such hurry to look around for a girl” (Wharton, 34).
Later, Ethan saw that Mattie danced with Dennis Eady. He got jealous and could not go into the room and get her so he hid. Newland and Ethan both wanted something they knew was not really theirs and did not want them to be with anyone else. Although Newland and Ethan were very similar, they were also very different. Each fell in love with his wife’s cousin, but Newland knew his responsibilities; he knew he had to stay with his wife, and that was what Ethan did not know.
In Age of Innocence, when Ellen found out that May was pregnant, she left for London. She knew she could no longer interfere with their relationship. Newland was going to follow her but when he found out he was going to have a child with May Newland knew he needed to stay with her. And that was where Newland and Ethan differ. In Ethan Frome, Ethan was going to stay with Zeena and let Mattie leave but when she was about to leave he decided he was going to be the one to drive Mattie to the train station. On the way, they took a trip down memory lane and revisited many spots where they fell for each other.
Then they stopped to sled and Mattie and Ethan agreed to kill themselves and escape Zeena. Newland knew that he needed to stay and be with May even though he may have been happier with Ellen. Ethan only thought about himself when he tried to kill himself and that’s where they differ. Newland’s and Ethan’s lives could have been better if they had left their wives and followed the person they were in love with. If May had never gotten pregnant then he could have gone to Europe and followed Ellen. Newland would have been happier with having a family with Ellen rather than May.
If Ethan had left Zeena and went west with Mattie he could have been so much happier. He would not have to pay to care for Zeena. Also, he would have been with someone he actually wanted to marry, not someone whom he married just to avoid being lonely in the winter after his mom died. All in all, Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome are very similar but still different. They are similar because of the symbolism used. Also, Newland and Ethan are very similar because of whom they fell in love with. However, they differ due to the way Newland and Ethan handled the situation of being in love with their wife’s cousin.