Ethan Frome is a novel that was published in 1911 by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Edith Wharton. It is set in turn-of-the-century New England, in the fictitious town of Starkfield, Massachusetts. Ethan Frome is set in a fictional New England town named Starkfield, where an unnamed narrator tells the story of his encounter with Ethan Frome, a man with dreams and desires that end in an ironic turn of events. The narrator tells the story based on an account from observations at Frome's house when he had to stay there during a winter storm.
Ethan Frome makes ample use of symbolism as a literary device. Similar to The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (also set in New England), Edith Wharton uses the color red against the snowy white background of her Massachusetts setting to symbolize Mattie’s attraction and vitality as opposed to Zeena, as well as her temptation to Ethan in general. Wharton uses the cat and the pickle dish to symbolize the failing marriage of Ethan and Zeena; the cat symbolizes Zeena’s presence when Ethan and Mattie are alone, and when it breaks the pickle dish, this symbolizes the final fracturing of the marriage that is rapidly coming as Mattie and Ethan slide closer and closer to adultery.