79 pages 2 hours read

Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome

Fiction | Novella | Adult | Published in 1911

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Use these activities to engage all types of learners, while requiring that they refer to and incorporate details from the text over the course of the activity. 

ACTIVITY 1: “Painting a Picture”

Ethan Frome contains many vivid descriptions of the Massachusetts landscape in winter. For this activity, choose one description that you find particularly interesting or evocative and create a piece of visual art inspired by it.

  • Although your work should take its cues from a particular passage, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a realistic or literal interpretation; you may want to adopt a more abstract style.
  • You can also experiment with the media you use. Your final product, for example, might be a collage rather than a sketch.
  • When you’ve finished, jot down a few sentences identifying the passage you used and describing how you chose to interpret it visually.

Teaching Suggestion: The winter landscape is one of Ethan Frome’s most prominent motifs, contributing to the novel’s mood and echoing its ideas about the futility of human action in the face of vast natural forces. At the same time, the natural world is also a source of great beauty and wonder for characters like Ethan and Mattie. This tension provides students with ample room for creative interpretation; although their statements about the work they create do not need to be extensive or deeply analytical, look for implicit links to the novel’s tone, themes, and style.