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He was very conservative in his approach and was a man of very few words when it came to expressing his feelings. The book is a very powerful one, in the way in which it talks about one man's falling marriage, and how he thinks he is destined to be with his one true love, Mattie. In modern times, especially in the west, marriage commitments are becoming more un-successful. Divorce, separations and affairs are becoming extremely frequent along with people not knowing why they are really committed to someone, who over a period of time proves to be ghastly, old, obnoxious and ugly upon the eyes of the beholder. In the nineteen hundreds, Society was a prominent factor in considering ones actions. It was the head of the economy, which ruled and controlled people like puppets, if you did not do something which society did not approve of, you were looked down upon. Divorces were not an accepted act and the word "marriage" was defined as a life long experience with the partner you choose to commit to, regardless if you stopped sharing your love for them in the future, or on the contrast had un-requited love.
Ethan is completely in love with Mattie, which is a big controversy because of his relationship with Zeena. Mattie's presence to Ethan brings happiness and glimpses of strong "lights" into rooms, which are damp, dark and gloomy with Zeena's occupancy. Mattie makes him satisfied with his life when things are falling apart for Ethan. She completes him, but does she feel the same way about him? If he took the relationship to the next level, would she avoid him? These questions worry Ethan tremendously throughout the book, which were eventually answered in the ending.
Ethan is different from other people, in the way he shows us his unique personality. He is a person who is dependent on others. He was attached to his mother, before she died a tragic death after fighting a disease which eventually took over her. He went on to depend upon Zeena, who he then later married. He has a bad habit of brining out the negatives in a person, and being pessimistic. Over time he gets bored and wants to move on quickly to the next chapter in his life, when the current one has just started.
I feel that Ethan does not have the patience or maturity to share a lifetime with a woman. He takes people for granted by using them as a "crutch". His mother was his first, Zeena his second and Mattie would be his third. Hence, what is the sense of eloping with Mattie? Does he enjoy destroying previous and current commitments he has claimed to have made, or third time lucky?
Marriage is not for everybody, as people are saying now days. The questions which arise in my head are: Can Ethan stay with Mattie? Is she this real true love? Or will he jus start rejecting her after a few years like what he has done with Zeena in this current marriage.
Taking into consideration Ethan and his personality of depending upon people, the fact of the matter is that he is not happy with Zeena. Ethan finds her old, ugly and wicked. He does not like to see her treating the women he claims to love, badly and he does not have the connection or bond which he can only share with Mattie with Zeena. If he is dissatisfied with his miss-match, then he has the full right to move on if he pleases to. Does he not? However his actions might result in feelings of isolation from society. Man is known as a social being. What society thought of you was very important in those times. It is human nature to care about what people think of you.
Throughout the book Ethan, the protagonist talks about running away with Mattie and how he longs to touch her and start the next stage of their relationship, Physicality. He shows desperation and obsession about just being with her, having her presence to him feels like heaven. At times I feel sorry for Ethan, because of the dullness in his marriage. I think Zeena is very controlling and bullies him in ways. She likes to speak for Ethan and does not enjoy when he gets an ounce of freedom. Zeena later finds out about the feelings which he shares for Mattie, so I feel that is she has some decency, why does she not allow them to start a new relationship? She is fully aware of the fact that her spouse does not love her, yet she still carries on day after day without the devotion and love you need in a marriage.
Although his love for another woman is strong, which can be backed up with the points mentioned previously, Ethan shows sings of trying his best to save the marriage with Zeena. The pickle dish extract is symbolic of this. The pickle dish is symbolic of their marriage and when it broke, this meant that the marriage would follow, however Ethan was aware of the fact that the pickle dish meant a lot to Zeena, he tried his best to fix it which meant that he was literally trying his best to save the marriage. Does this mean he felt some affection for Zeena? Also at times he did feel sorry for Zeena, for example when he was sick, he felt guilty for loving Mattie. At this point it seems pointless from running away.
On page ninety two: "Their flying away from Starkfield" suggests how they want to flee from the emptiness and coldness which was saturated in the town which they lived in, (Starkfield). Towards the end of the book I felt it was right that they were together and they seemed like a better match than Ethan and Zeena.
I conclude that Ethan and Mattie do belong together. My points are presented above, but I think that what matters is the love between the two couples which Zeena and Ethan do not share. I think that the chemistry which Mattie shares with Ethan, is too strong to ignore, who knows it might not be the right choice, but it certainly worth the risk of trying, and not regretting later on.