Passion and transgression:
Ethan Frome suffers from the strains of repressed passion during much of the novel. Mattie Silver evokes powerful emotion in him which is blocked by the circumstances of his marriage. Because of his predicament his passion for Mattie Silver is restricted in expression. In the novel passion is not really described as a source of potential liberation but rather a force which controls and dominates man.

Ethan Frome's tragic experience seems to have removed him from others in the town of Starkfield. Life is harsh in the bleak town of Starkfield such that there is little time to care for the troubles of others. The dark, brooding "ruin of a man" that Ethan has become is largely a result of the emotional isolation that has buried him since the event on the Sled. Its effect is shown in his dark and mysterious manner.

Lost potential:
Ethan Frome is described as a man of great intellectual curiosity and potential but with no outlet of expression in the dire environment of Starkfield. The limitations established by his locale force him deeper into isolation. Additionally his potential to love is destroyed by the convention of good morals.