Ethan Frome Project “Discuss the representation of women in Edith Wharton’s ‘Ethan Frome’”. ESSAY STRUCTURE For example: DISCUSS THE IMPORTANCE OF SYMBO

Ethan Frome Project “Discuss the representation of women in Edith Wharton’s ‘Ethan Frome’”. ESSAY STRUCTURE


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 “Discuss the representation of women in Edith Wharton’s ‘Ethan Frome’”. 



Thesis: Your thesis is the central argument of your essay, the thing that you intend to prove. Look carefully at your chosen question and formulate one. For example, look at the sentence in bold below:

In Edith Wharton’s tragic novella, ‘Ethan Frome’, there are frequent, and significant, examples of the use of symbolism


Introduction: Your thesis can be the first sentence of your introduction. Use the rest of your introduction to justify, or expand on, your idea/statement. Aim for at least 3-4 sentences in total, more if you like.


In Edith Wharton’s tragic novella, ‘Ethan Frome’, there are frequent, and significant, examples of the use of symbolism. Wharton’s dedication to the literary style of Naturalism means that she tends to employ everyday objects and scenarios for symbolic purposes. Throughout ‘Ethan Frome’ we see that certain colors, such as red, elements of nature, such as the moon and hemlock, and animals, such as Zeena’s cat, carry a greater weight of meaning than initially meets the eye.

Body Paragraphs: Your body paragraphs are what you use to justify your thesis with evidence (that is to say, supporting quotations from the book). You also want to use them to acknowledge and address anything that doesn’t fit in with your thesis. You might, for example, have 3 body paragraphs in support of your thesis and 1 dealing with any concerns that seem to contradict it. Remember to use quotations from the book in all of them!


Let us begin with a consideration of the symbolic significance of the color red. Red is a color traditionally associated with passion and sexuality and, throughout the novella, it is the color most often coupled with Mattie Silver. We are told that Mattie, “wound a cherry-colored fascinator about her head” (Wharton, pg12) when leaving the town dance. This immediately marks Mattie out as a character associated with romance or sexuality. Furthermore, when Ethan and Mattie have supper together we are told of the “crimson ribbon” (Wharton, pg34) threaded through her hair. The significance of this detail is twofold. On the one hand we have the basic implications of the color red, which, in this case, could relate to the fact that Mattie and Ethan will be alone together that night. On the other hand, we also have the undoubted significance of the fact that Mattie has paid special attention to her appearance on the only evening when Zeena is absent.

Conclusion: Try to wrap all your ideas together in your conclusions, and perhaps even save something new to say in it. Don’t be afraid to include quotations here too.

Also try not to repeat yourself. You may restate your thesis and refer back to your essay question, but try to do so in new language.

Things to watch out for:

-Name and essay question at the top of your paper!

-Never lose track of your essay question. Relate your ideas to it throughout.

-Don’t narrate the story! Analyze it. Assume your reader knows the story inside out so you never have to explain what happens in the book.

-Use lots of quotations to support your arguments!

-Try and avoid the 1st person. 3rd person is better. If you must use the 1st person, say “One might argue” rather than “I think”.

-Keep your tone and language very formal and avoid contractions.

-Don’t waste time in your opening paragraphs saying things like, “This essay will show….” – just start your analysis!

-Don’t forget to cite your quotations! Parentheses containing author’s surname and page number. Example (Wharton 34).

-Read your work aloud to yourself when you are finished to check for grammar and syntax issues.

– Write in the present tense when discussing a novel. When discussing a dead author, naturally you can use the past tense.

Useful Language/phrases:

A brief note on language… it’s a small and obvious point but try to dress it up as much as possible, without misusing it, of course!


Instead of ‘use’ – utilise.

Instead of ‘to make something’ – to render something.

Instead of ‘idea’ – notion, concept, hypothesis.

Instead of ‘structure’ – architecture.

Instead of ‘signs of’ – hallmarks of.

Handy Phrases:

It can be argued….

This quotation demonstrates that….

My point is exemplified by the following quotation….

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