Ethan Frome Discussion Prompts

Allan notices that Mandy would be cute if she was thinner.  Why?  What makes him push aside his initial disdain and realize this?

Coach Neal says, “You’re so damn alienated you might as well go live on Mars, you freak. Every race, you start out well, and then you choke. Get some courage. Get some cojones. Get some balls. Maybe then someone’ll want you as a friend.” Discuss the impact the words of a parent, teacher, or coach can have on a young person and a time such words had an impact on you.

Allen says, “I didn’t run to win, but ran to vanish…”  Why would he want to vanish? And is his solution to his problems healthy or unhealthy? Discuss a time when you might have wanted to vanish and why you felt that way and discuss how you handled it.

The hierarchy in high school determines each student’s status.  How does this change once high school is over?  In what ways does it still impact us?

When he all but ignores Mandy in the school hallway, Allen succumbs to peer pressure. Do we ever really push past that need to belong or the concurrent tendency to succumb to peer pressure? In what ways does it manifest as we get older?

Allen says, “I’d been hiding pain so long pain had become my anesthesia, helping me forget I was a dickwad.” What are some reasons we hide our pain, and what happens when we do so?

What kept Allen from making his friendship with Mandy public? Then, what allowed him to do so? We all sometimes react and respond to situations in this way. What does it say about us?

Allen is functionally abandoned by both of his parents. Which abandonment might have more impact and why?

What effect would Allen’s relationship with his mother have on him? Discuss your relationship with your own mother and what impact it had on you.

Mandy and Allen become friends. Discuss what friendship means to you and what the most important quality of friendship is.

When Allan says to Mandy, “Maybe I’d make Ethan Frome good instead of nice,´what does he mean? What is the primary difference between the two?

When the janitor tells Allen to, ““Keep your words sweet, kid. Some day you just might have to eat them,” what does he mean?

Discuss the development of Allen and Mandy’s friendship. What role does she assume in his life, what need does she fulfill?

What was missing from Allen’s school when Jabberwocky died? Discuss a situation you have been in where you were made to feel alone with your emotions, and discuss how this impacted you.

At one point Allen says, “Girl crap could be so much meaner and more vicious than any guy crap.” How do girl crap and boy crap differ?

What changes for Allen once he knows his draft number? And in what ways are the changes positive and negative? Discuss an event in your life that dramatically changed your attitude and perspective.

“I never win. I never will. Nobody wants to see me win.” This seems to be Allen’s mantra. What drives this attitude?

How long do you think Allen knew about his relationship to his father? Or was what his father told him actually a surprise?  How would such knowledge affect you?

Why does Allen use Mandy’s name in the race?

Allen is simultaneously terrified and stoic about being inducted into the army, about having been drafted. What other feelings might the young men drafted to serve in Vietnam have felt?

Several times Allen says, “We’d been betrayed.” Why and how did America betray its Vietnam vets? And to this day, what impact did that betrayal have on the people who fought in that war?

What is the ultimate irony of how the protesters treated returning soldiers? Why do you think the attitude towards the military has now changed?

How were kids in 1970 – 1972 different from kids today? How are they the same?

Even from the worst of circumstances we can often take away a gift. What gift does Allen take away from his time in Vietnam?

Why is Allen obsessed with Ethan Frome? What does he take away from his obsession – and how does it change over time?

Leta says, “Maybe we have to pass through pain to find our freedom.” Give an example of this happening in your life.