There, at Ethan's farm, the narrator could see members of Ethan's family: his tall and pale wife, Zeena, and one more woman, Mattie Silver, Zeena's cousin, who was paralyzed after an accident. At this point, the narrator unfolds Ethan's story, which goes back in time.
About twenty five years ago Ethan Frome lost his mother. Feeling extremely lonely after her death, he married Zeena Pierce, his far relative, who has been looking after his mother during the sickness. Zeena was a tough and harsh woman. She suffered hypochondria, and her health went from bad to worse. She called her cousin, Mattie, to stay with them at the farm and to help with housekeeping. Very soon Ethan realized that he'd fallen in love with that young beautiful lady. Mattie was also very kind to him, but however they did not dare to open feelings to each other. Zeena, seeing this tension between two people, started going more and more unpleased with such situation.
One day Zeena had to go out for some days to see her distant relative and a doctor, so Mattie and Ethan were left in the farm alone. They arranged a dinner and enjoyed their time in silent house, until suddenly a cat broke down Zeena's favorite pickle-dish, which they used at their dinner. Ethan promised Mattie to glue it together on the next day, but Zeena arrived unexpectedly early and discovered the broken dish at once. ...