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Desire vs Obligation Essay

  • Submitted by: jstemz
  • on December 9, 2008
  • Category: English
  • Length: 603 words

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Below is an essay on "Desire vs Obligation" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

What choice would you make between lust and moral obligation? The same decision faces Ethan Frome in Edith Wharton’s novella, Ethan Frome. In the novella, Ethan must choose between staying in his hometown of Starkfield with his wife Zeena, or giving into lust and running away with Zeena’s cousin and their housekeeper, Mattie Silver. Ethan knows his obligation to stay with Zeena, but he does not actually love her. She has no positive characteristics and brings nothing but restrain and burden to Ethan. Ethan only married her out of fear of lonliness after his mother died. Mattie possesses everything Zeena does not which makes her so desireable to Ethan. Mattie has vitality, grace and beauty. The conflict between Ethan’s desire and obligation illuminates the novella by portraying a main theme, obligation’s obstruction of desire.  
Ethan’s complex decision between honoring his obligation to Zeena or giving into desire and running away with Mattie illuminates a main theme of the novella, moral obligations as an obstacle to individual desire. Ethan wishes to run away with and marry Mattie, but his obligation to Zeena keeps him from doing so. Ethan has too strong of values to abandon Zeena and leave her alone on a farm that probably will never sell and too much for a woman as sick as her to tend to. Wharton makes Mattie seem very desirable by describing her positive characteristics such as grace, vitality, and beauty. Wharton portrays Zeena with no positive traits, “Against the dark background of the kitchen she stood up tall and angular, one hand drawing a quilted counterpane to her flat breast, while the other held a lamp. The light, on a level with her chin, drew out of the darkness her puckered throat and the projecting wrist of the hand that clutched the quilt, and deepened fantastically the hollows and prominences of her high-boned face under its rings of crimpling-pins” (Wharton, 47). Zeena’s portrayal paints a bleak and unattractive picture. She has no...

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