Although it is often called an American classic,
Ethan Frome was originally
written in French.
Wharton had hired a tutor to help her improve
her command of the language. Too polite to correct
her speech, the tutor suggested that she produce
written exercises. The result was the first
version of the story, written in a small black notebook.
Not only was the original French version
much shorter than the final English one but the
main character was named Hart, not Ethan, and
the ending was completely different. With the
French version, however, Wharton had established
the framework for the novella.
This work probably surprised Wharton’s readers.
After all, she was a wealthy woman who frequently
wrote about characters who belonged to
her privileged social class. Nevertheless, she had
spent a decade living in Massachusetts, where she
had certainly passed through many small and isolated
villages similar to Starkfield, where