"Seeing" One Side of the Story: Imagery and Perspective in Ethan Frome

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In this lesson, students will consider the ways humans tend to make assumptions about who people are based on what they look like. Students will analyze the use of imagery in Edith Wharton's novel Ethan Frome to understand the ways the writer draws on this tendency, using concrete description to sway the reader's perspective on the characters in the narrative.

Introduction

In this lesson, students will consider the ways humans tend to make assumptions about who people are based on what they look like. Students will analyze the use of imagery in Edith Wharton's novel, Ethan Frome, to understand the ways Wharton draws on this tendency, using concrete description to sway the reader's perspective on the characters. Students will develop group presentations that look closely at passages that use imagery to describe the characters in the novel and analyze the ways in which these descriptions reveal the perspective of a biased narrator. 

Before teaching: This sequence of lessons is designed to get students thinking about the implications of controlling a narrative. The person empowered to tell a story has the power to influence the audience's feelings and beliefs. Wharton's narrative exposes the ways late 19th and early 20th century society silenced or erased the stories of women, both in public and private. Before teaching, pose the following guiding questions to students:

Who gets to tell the story in Ethan Frome? How does the narrator’s point of view in the novel affect the way the characters are portrayed? Why is this important?

You may want to write the guiding questions on the board and keep them up for all four lessons. Refer to them frequently throughout. While students shouldn't be expected to come up with one "right" answer, the questions should help you guide class conversations around perspective.

Note: If you don't have access to a class set of the novel, never fear! While the lessons are focused on class readings of the novel, Ethan Frome, the concepts are broad enough to apply to nearly any narrative text. 

Lesson Times

Two Days
90 Minute Class Periods

Industries / Subjects / Grades

K-12 Subjects
  • English-Language Arts
Grade Levels
  • 11

Standards and Objectives

Standards

California English Common Core Standards (2)

Related Instructional Objectives (SWBAT...)

  • Students will work in groups to develop presentations that analyze the ways physical descriptions of characters reveal narrator bias

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