Symbolism in The Red Pickle Dish

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 586 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 586|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

The red pickle dish in Edith Wharton's novel "Ethan Frome" has been the subject of much speculation and analysis among literary scholars. The dish, which is a wedding gift to Ethan and Zeena Frome, is a seemingly insignificant object that holds great symbolic significance in the novel. This essay aims to explore the symbolism of the red pickle dish in "Ethan Frome" and its relevance to the themes and characters in the novel.

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The red pickle dish symbolizes the disintegration of Ethan and Zeena's marriage. When Zeena discovers the broken dish, she is distraught and accuses Mattie, Ethan's love interest, of breaking it. This incident marks a turning point in the novel, as it represents the breaking point of Ethan and Zeena's marriage. The red pickle dish, therefore, serves as a symbol of the shattered relationship between Ethan and Zeena, as well as the loss of innocence and love in their lives.

Furthermore, the red color of the pickle dish holds its own significance. Red is often associated with passion, desire, and forbidden love. In the context of "Ethan Frome," the red pickle dish can be seen as a symbol of the forbidden love between Ethan and Mattie. The dish's vibrant red color represents the intense emotions and desires that Ethan and Mattie feel for each other, which are in direct contrast to the dull and lifeless existence that Ethan experiences with Zeena.

Moreover, the pickle dish itself represents the confinement and suffocation of Ethan and Zeena's marriage. The dish is a fragile and delicate object, much like the fragile and delicate nature of their relationship. The fact that it is rarely used and kept in a locked cupboard symbolizes the repression and suppression of emotions within the Frome household. The dish, therefore, becomes a physical manifestation of the emotional and psychological confinement that Ethan and Zeena experience in their marriage.

The broken pickle dish also serves as a metaphor for the broken dreams and aspirations of the characters in the novel. Ethan and Mattie's hopes for a future together are shattered when Zeena discovers the broken dish and sends Mattie away. The broken dish, therefore, represents the shattered dreams and aspirations of the characters, as well as the futility of their attempts to escape their circumstances.

In addition to its symbolism in relation to the characters and themes in the novel, the red pickle dish also has broader symbolic significance. It can be seen as a symbol of the societal expectations and constraints that limit the freedom and happiness of individuals. The dish's confinement in the locked cupboard represents the societal norms and expectations that confine and restrict the characters in the novel. The breaking of the dish and the consequences that follow serve as a commentary on the destructive nature of societal constraints and the limitations they place on individual happiness and fulfillment.

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In conclusion, the red pickle dish in "Ethan Frome" serves as a powerful symbol of the disintegration of Ethan and Zeena's marriage, the forbidden love between Ethan and Mattie, the confinement and suffocation of their relationship, and the shattered dreams and aspirations of the characters. Its vibrant red color and delicate nature add layers of meaning to its symbolism, making it a rich and complex symbol in the novel. The dish's broader symbolic significance also adds depth to its interpretation and underscores its relevance to the societal themes and issues addressed in "Ethan Frome." As such, the red pickle dish stands as a poignant and evocative symbol that enhances the thematic and emotional depth of the novel.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Symbolism in The Red Pickle Dish. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Symbolism in The Red Pickle Dish.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
Symbolism in The Red Pickle Dish. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Symbolism in The Red Pickle Dish [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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