- Alternative Character Interpretation:
- Ethan: Genuinely sympathetic Henpecked Husband who just wanted to feel alive and loved again and was cruelly denied every turn by an uncaring wife and universe, or a selfish man who cared more about his own desires than his wife's and unfairly blamed her for his problems when he was the one responsible for his own bad life decisions and too cowardly to try to fix them himself?
- Zeena is really a witch and the cat is her familiar. This is why Zeena knows the pickle dish is broken almost as soon as she gets home- the cat broke it, and why the cat is constantly taking Zeena's place while Zeena is gone. (Her seat at the kitchen table, her rocking chair, etc.) Also, wood burns, and witches burn- thus witches are made out of wood, and at the end when Ethan and Mattie are trying to commit suicide, Ethan sees Zeena's face in a tree. Thus, Zeena=Witch.
- Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: A common reaction to the book in high school English class. It's a depressing book.
- The Woobie: Ethan and Mattie both had pretty troubled lives even before the events of the novel, and even though they brought their final fates about by their own actions, most people would agree that they surely didn't deserve what happens to them.
- Jerkass Woobie: Zeena may qualify for this, depending on how much of her illness and her love for Ethan you feel may be genuine. Mattie's personality has"soured" by the ending, as she has become querolous, demanding, and bitter, but given that she's spent 24 years as a quadriplegic confined to a squalid, isolated farmhouse in bleak surroundings, with her main caregiver being herself a cantankerous, difficult woman who treated her badly before (and whom has reason to resent her for trying to steal her husband), it's not surprising.
YMMV / Ethan Frome