Hamza is evident. On the other hand, Kenneth

Hamza Suhail
Professor Ashraf
English 130
30 December 2017
Quiz #4

Elizabeth Ammon’s “The Myth of Imperial Whiteness” and Kenneth Bernard’s “Imagery
and Symbolism in Ethan Frome” both have two vastly different perspectives on the same work
of literature. Ammons goes into extensive detail to support the concept of racism that exists in
Ethan Frome. Through the rich usage of symbolism, dynamic and static characters as well as
imagery, Bormand offers his analysis on the characterization of Ethan Frome as well. Through
the comparison of each critical work’s beginning, or introduction and conclusion, the variations
in 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 interests
as a proponent of white supremacy. Wharton writes, “white people trapped… on the white
landscape.” Ammons goes into further detail by contending Wharton’s belief in the supremacy of
the white race and thus, the inferiority of all people of color. Ammons proves her claims by
providing supporting evidence from the text to highlight Wharton’s love for white people. She
does not stop there – she also analyzes Wharton’s other works and the inherent racism present in
them. In her comparison of Summer (1917) and Ethan Frome, she writes that “summer is almost
entirely allusive in its presentation of race anxiety; however, Ethan Frome uses it as the
background upon which to project its tragedy.” Ammon’s introduction is wrought full of
passages 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, without
over-narrating, get at a deeper problem involving such characters when they do not speak enough
to reveal that problem?” As a result, he argues that Wharton reveals an effective solution through
her 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 the
sexual symbolism. While Ammons integrates Wharton’s racist perspective into her
understanding of Ethan Frome, Bernard sticks to the literary interpretation by discussing the
elements of fiction.

In Ammons’ conclusion, she discusses the larger issue her analysis is exploring. She states
that, “In many instances, anti-immigrant racism today camouflages itself and goes mainline in
self-presentation, which is precisely my point about Ethan Frome.” Ammon’s strongly advocates
the stance that it is vital for racism in Ethan Frome and similar works to be revealed and
thoroughly examined as it is this literature that unmasks the extent of white anxieties in the
United States. Bernard, in a stark contrast, proposes that the heart of the novel is the weakness of
Frome’s character as well as his “negation of life.” He argues that the language usage in Ethan
Frome is unparalleled and allows the reader to closely read and understand the point of
Wharton’s work. In order to make this understanding easier on the audience, Bernard breaks
down the complex ideas and symbols represented in Ethan Frome into simple, easy to digest
concepts. Step-by-step, he goes through Wharton’s integration of symbolism and imagery, two
elements of fiction, and the motives behind their usage. Through his breakdown of symbolism
and imagery into three components, he provides a clearer insight into the mind of Wharton and
the purpose of her work, while Ammons solely focuses on the racism in Ethan Frome. Although
she dissects the novel as well, she also supports her analysis using previous works authored by
Wharton 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 in
their approach and reasoning to try and understand Wharton’s book. While Bernard writes to
facilitate a deeper understanding for readers of Ethan Frome, Ammons’ purpose is to unmask the
inherent racism in Wharton’s writing. Using extensive supporting detail, both authors manage to
support their theses and provide refreshing new perspectives on Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome.