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Symbolism of the Cat and the Pickle Dish in Ethan Frome
Transcript of Symbolism of the Cat and the Pickle Dish in Ethan Frome
"The sun slanted through the south window on the girl's moving figure, on the cat dozing in a chair.." (pg 59)
"A bright fire glowed in the stove and the cat lay stretched before it, watching the table with a drowsy eye." (pg. 72)
"They drew their seats up to the table, and the cat, unbidden, jumped between them into Zeena's empty chair." (pg. 73)
The Pickle Dish
"She lifted stricken eyes to him. "Yes, but, you see, she never meant it should be used, not even when there was company; and I had to get up on the step-ladder to reach it down from the top shelf of the china-closet, where she keeps it with all her best things, and of course she'll want to know why I did it—""
The Pickle Dish
The pickle dish is red, which can show desire, love, seduction, and passion. The breaking of the pickle dish represents the disintegration of Zeena and Ethan's marriage, as well as Ethan and Mattie's relationship. Ethan wants to glue it back together, to give the appearance of being whole (or of their marriage being stable; perhaps he wants to fix the marriage). Zeena never used the pickle dish- this could represent her lack of effort in her marriage.
"The cat, unnoticed, had crept up on muffled paws from Zeena's seat to the table, and was stealthily elongating its body in the direction of the milk-jug, which stood between Ethan and Mattie. The two leaned forward at the same moment and their hands met on the handle of the jug. Mattie's hand was underneath, and Ethan kept his clasped on it a moment longer than was necessary. The cat, profiting by this unusual demonstration, tried to effect an unnoticed retreat, and in doing so backed into the pickle-dish, which fell to the floor with a crash."
The cat is representative of Zeena and her presence, especially when Mattie and Ethan are alone. The cat is constantly present and watching, which keeps the two apart.
Zeena Finds Out
"You wanted to make the supper-table pretty; and you waited till my back was turned, and took the thing I set most store by of anything I've got, and wouldn't never use it, not even when the minister come to dinner, or Aunt Martha Pierce come over from Bettsbridge—".... and I tried to keep my things where you couldn't get at 'em—and now you've took from me the one I cared for most of all—"