79 pages 2 hours read

Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome

Fiction | Novella | Adult | Published in 1911

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Pre-Reading Context

Use these questions or activities to help gauge students’ familiarity with and spark their interest in the context of the work, giving them an entry point into the text itself.

Short Answer

1. What technological advances occurred in the 19th century? If you can, name at least three.

Teaching Suggestion: Ethan Frome is set during the late Industrial Revolution against a backdrop of expanding railroads and electricity. Students may reach further back in time towards innovations like textile machinery and steamboats, as well as offer other ideas about advancements in travel, transportation, and technology throughout the 1800s. Since industrialization went hand in hand with urbanization throughout this period, use students’ responses to spark discussion about the effects these technological changes had on the American landscape (and in particular on those living in rural areas).

  • The Minnesota Libraries Publishing Project features this overview of the “transportation revolution” in the United States.
  • The webpage for Connecticut’s Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill (a historical site with a functioning 19th-century mill) features photos, video, and information about the kinds of technology that a farm like Ethan‘s might have used.

2. What objects, emotions, and concepts do you associate with the color red? What cultural associations does the color have?