Set in the bleak, barren winter landscape of New England, it is the tragic tale of a simple man, bound to the demands of his farm and his tyrannical, sickly wife, Zeena, and driven by his star-crossed love for Zeena's young cousin, Mattie Silver. Would you like to BUY an example?
He is physically isolated from the world and is also cut off from the possibility of any relationship. You know how looking at a math problem similar to the one you're stuck on can help you get unstuck?
Throughout her life as a writer, Wharton would schedule the time that she wrote around social engagements and she did not readily discuss her writing.
Ethan tried to escape the isolation of Starkfield and his father's farm by going off to the technological college at Worcester. After Mattie's arrival, Zeena forces a smothering silence on her also with her "fault-finding that is of the silent kind.
He began to cultivate his own social traits and to overcome his reticence; however, his father's death forced him to give up college and return to the farm and his ill mother.
The setting is seemed to me frozen, which further expresses the theme of isolation. Isolation in a social aspect has broken down Zeena to her primitive years as a sociable human being.