Edith Wharton is an American author of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In her novella Ethan Frome, Wharton uses symbolism as a means of developing the theme of her story. Ethan Frome takes place in a small New England community in which there is little acceptance towards sinful deeds. Around the Frome house many objects take a symbolic level. The cat, the L shaped barn, the red pickle dish, and the elm tree all have a not literal meaning. Wharton uses all these things as a way of developing the theme of failure in this story. The red pickle dish was most important of all the three symbols. It was a hardly ever-used dish that was only brought down rarely in the spring for dusting. The dish was a wedding gift and this, in itself, is significant. The fact that it was red and that it was a pickle dish adds to the sexual connotations that it might possess as a symbol (Shuman 399). The red pickle dish establishes Mattie as an intruder who would reintroduce sexuality into Ethans life (Hattenhauer). The color of the pickle dish is a representation of Mattie. Her red scarf, lips, and ribbon all connected her to the pickle dish (Hattenhauer). The pickle dish is first presented in the novel when Zeenas physical presence is moved out. Mattie takes it down and prepares a carefully laid table for a supper between Ethan and her (Wharton 41). As they eat the cat, which I will discuss later, wonders around the table unnoticed. The cat ends up backing into the red pickle dish. This kind of violation is irrevocable (Bernard 393). Even though Ethan plans to glue the dish together it still will never be the same. This can symbolize the failure between Ethan and Zeena. This is a failure of marriage that will never be glued together between the Fromes. This failure can also be seen to symbolize the beginning of something between Ethan and Zeena. When Zeena comes home to find the pickl…
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