Ethan Frome
Or, The Man Who Tried to Blame It on the Cat

Why Do I Have to Read This? Edith Wharton, Doctor Who, Ethan Frome

The short answer is, you don’t. The apocalypse will come, and there will be no one handing out brownie points to the ones who actually read, mmm, let’s say, Ethan Frome, instead of Spark Noting it. If the short answer is all you crave in this short life, then, blithe spirit, you really do need to read Ethan Frome—so that you may internalize the moral of the story, which is: Life is short, unless you do something mindbogglingly stupid—for example, go for a short, fast answer on a doomed sled—in which case, it can end up being very, very long. Here are a few more reasons why: 1) So that you will not forever be in the dark when certain pop culture references come up at parties, such as “Watch out for that tree!” and “Doh!” Both of which should have originated in Ethan Frome, but didn’t. 2) So that you will not go forth as a patriotic American believing the myth that life was more wholesome and rewarding in a technology free agrarian society. 3) Note to students: This point is very important. So that not everything on your reading list is more than three hundred pages. Ethan Frome is a short work that packs in a lot of easy-to-spot symbolism, foreshadowing, setting-as-character, antiheroism, and irony—an understanding of which comes in handy when reading longer works such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Vanity Fair. Short works, such as Ethan Frome, are assigned in the hope of sparking an interest in an author’s bigger, more imposing, but frequently more fun to read novels, such as the mirthless House of Mirth in which another brassy heroine crashes and burns, only worse. Much worse. And there is this, too: 4) Hundreds of thousands of people have read Ethan Frome and liked it. Many hated it in high school, then, reading it again in their old age ten years later, found the depth and beauty their teachers had vainly hoped would be observable the first time around.

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