The statement that “Ethan Frome, ultimately succeeds because of [Wharton] including the subtle backdrop of Naturalism” is true because without that premise, this story is just a story of one instance that could not teach us much. It is made meaningful by the backdrop of Naturalism because it can be connected to infinite stories or circumstances. The connection teaches us about ourselves and the humans around us. By “exploring the complexity of human emotion against the fundamentals of Nature”, we see how similar we are to Nature and how closely bonded to it each one of us is.
The Naturalism found in the book points out and helps us to understand our helplessness, savageness and instinctive desires. On page 103 of Ethan Frome, Zeena is described as a “listless creature”, an “alien presence” with a habit of “silent brooding’. These descriptions are very animalistic and for the first time Ethan realizes that Zeena is like Nature, she can give him everything and also “[take] everything else from him”. Zeena not only gave Ethan Mattie, but the ability to love and feel passion.
Ethan feels that Zeena has “mastered him”, similar to ow earlier on in the book a snowstorm masters the whole town who is powerless against it. Ethan understands his helplessness around Zeena and it brings out a rage he has never felt before. A “flame of hate” rises up in him and he has to mentally restrain himself from his physical urges after taking a “wild step” towards Zeena. This specific passage shows the struggle between the mind and natural urges. By exploring human emotion against Naturalism, it becomes apparent how primitive humans are and how vulnerable we are to both Nature and our emotions.