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Power and delicacy.
on 10 July 2013
I find no problem with using the word "novella" to describe this beautiful and painful tale. In no way does it diminish the force of the book, nor point to anything more than its modest length. It seems to me to be a barren activity to quibble over whether a work is a short story, a novelette, a term probably equally offensive to some sensitive souls, or as I opt for here, a novella. "Heart of Darkness", "The Old Man and the Sea", "The Withered Arm", "Bartleby, the Scrivener".................we can squabble over genres but in so doing say nothing of the quality of the experience embodied in the story.
The relative brevity of "Ethan Frome" is a major source of its power. The compression involved occasioning so many nuances and so much unstated meaning is at the very heart of this claustrophobic piece. In so many subtle ways Edith Wharton ratchets up the tension, without once stepping away from the restraint and delicacy of her characteristic style. So much of great literature, especially prose has as its central concern the struggle between the individual and the forces, social and psychological, that choke possibilities of living to the full. Here, with powerful intensity, all the greater for the quiet tone, Edith Wharton has produced a triumph of economy to express this theme with the most powerful,sensitive feeling.