Hamza SuhailProfessor AshrafEnglish 13030 December 2017Quiz #4 Elizabeth Ammon’s “The Myth of Imperial Whiteness” and Kenneth Bernard’s “Imageryand Symbolism in Ethan Frome” both have two vastly different perspectives on the same workof literature. Ammons goes into extensive detail to support the concept of racism that exists inEthan Frome.
Through the rich usage of symbolism, dynamic and static characters as well asimagery, Bormand offers his analysis on the characterization of Ethan Frome as well. Throughthe comparison of each critical work’s beginning, or introduction and conclusion, the variationsin style and approach are quickly perceived. In the case of Elizabeth Ammons, she introduces her analysis by stating that Edith Wharton,the author of Ethan Frome, incorporates a phrase that hints at her history and personal interestsas a proponent of white supremacy. Wharton writes, “white people trapped..
. on the whitelandscape.” Ammons goes into further detail by contending Wharton’s belief in the supremacy ofthe white race and thus, the inferiority of all people of color. Ammons proves her claims byproviding supporting evidence from the text to highlight Wharton’s love for white people. Shedoes not stop there – she also analyzes Wharton’s other works and the inherent racism present inthem. In her comparison of Summer (1917) and Ethan Frome, she writes that “summer is almostentirely allusive in its presentation of race anxiety; however, Ethan Frome uses it as thebackground upon which to project its tragedy.
” Ammon’s introduction is wrought full ofpassages from Wharton’s works in which racism is evident. On the other hand, Kenneth Bernard discusses how the literary elements present in Ethan Frome provide a deeper understanding. Regarding Wharton, he states, “How could she, withoutover-narrating, get at a deeper problem involving such characters when they do not speak enoughto reveal that problem?” As a result, he argues that Wharton reveals an effective solution throughher usage of symbolism and imagery.
The tripartite constituents of these two techniques include,as he writes, “the compatibility of setting and character, the usage of light and dark, and thesexual symbolism. While Ammons integrates Wharton’s racist perspective into herunderstanding of Ethan Frome, Bernard sticks to the literary interpretation by discussing theelements of fiction. In Ammons’ conclusion, she discusses the larger issue her analysis is exploring.
She statesthat, “In many instances, anti-immigrant racism today camouflages itself and goes mainline inself-presentation, which is precisely my point about Ethan Frome.” Ammon’s strongly advocatesthe stance that it is vital for racism in Ethan Frome and similar works to be revealed andthoroughly examined as it is this literature that unmasks the extent of white anxieties in theUnited States. Bernard, in a stark contrast, proposes that the heart of the novel is the weakness ofFrome’s character as well as his “negation of life.” He argues that the language usage in EthanFrome is unparalleled and allows the reader to closely read and understand the point ofWharton’s work. In order to make this understanding easier on the audience, Bernard breaksdown the complex ideas and symbols represented in Ethan Frome into simple, easy to digestconcepts.
Step-by-step, he goes through Wharton’s integration of symbolism and imagery, twoelements of fiction, and the motives behind their usage. Through his breakdown of symbolismand imagery into three components, he provides a clearer insight into the mind of Wharton andthe purpose of her work, while Ammons solely focuses on the racism in Ethan Frome. Althoughshe dissects the novel as well, she also supports her analysis using previous works authored byWharton to prove the racist perspective of Ethan Frome. This is evident as it is present in both the introduction and conclusion of her work.
Both analyses of Ethan Frome, Elizabeth Ammon’s “The Myth of Imperial Whiteness” and Kenneth Bernard’s “Imagery and Symbolism in Ethan Frome” are fundamentally different intheir approach and reasoning to try and understand Wharton’s book. While Bernard writes tofacilitate a deeper understanding for readers of Ethan Frome, Ammons’ purpose is to unmask theinherent racism in Wharton’s writing. Using extensive supporting detail, both authors manage tosupport their theses and provide refreshing new perspectives on Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome.