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Seeking Happiness: Comparative Essay on Okonkwo and Ethan Frome

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Although in certain circumstances it can seem utterly impossible, joy can be found in many ways, even if it is in disguise. But, for Okonkwo and Ethan Frome joy was much harder to find than they both expected. They had to attempt to find elation by going to extreme measures. For both of these characters, the endless stress and pressure made them feel as if death was the only way for them to seek happiness. Both characters strong feelings of reassurance and need for happiness caused them to make impulsive decisions. In an effort to find happiness, Both Okonkwo and Ethan Frome ultimately decided to end their lives.

Both characters thought that death was the only way they would find peace. Both characters were feeling a tremendous amount of dread. For they no longer knew what to do. Ethan Frome knew that he wanted to be with Mattie and he went to extreme measures to assure himself. “The big tree loomed bigger and closer, and as they bore down on it he thought: ‘ It’s waiting for us: it seems to know’ (Wharton 170),” Ethan reassured himself by thinking that what he was doing was right and that the tree seemed to know as well, even though the idea seemed unrealistic. Okonkwo also felt the same way about feeling safe or finding peace. “We who are here this morning have remained true to our fathers, but our brothers have deserted us and joined a stranger to soil their farmland. (Achebe 203).” Okonkwo had found peace knowing that he had stayed true to his clan. But just because he found reassurance did not mean that he was not pressured by his peers. Both Ethan and Okonkwo felt reassurance with everything they did, from sledding into an elm tree to being a part of his clan. This is significant because it goes to show that they both felt reassured that their decision of death was right. Both characters were fully confident in all of their decisions even if it meant trouble.

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Many aspects contributed to Ethan and Okonkwo’s decision. But the main contributor to the madness was the pressure from peers. The pressure of the people around both Ethan and Okonkwo pushed them to make their decision. In Ethan Frome, Although Mattie and Ethan both wanted to be together, it seemed as if Mattie initially pressured Ethan into making his decision. “‘Ethan, where’ll I go if I leave you? I don’t know how to get along alone. You said so yourself just now. Nobody but you was ever good to me.’(Wharton 166).” Initially, Ethan thought that Mattie was crazy for wanting to run into the elm. But after Mattie did more “convincing” Ethan eventually caved. However, Okonkwo was not being pressured by one person alone, he was under the pressure of the whole clan. “ They set fire to his houses, demolished his red walls, killed his animals, and destroyed his barn. (Achebe 125).” Okonkwo had always been a planner. He never planned to be put into exile. He never planned to have pressure from his clan and for his friends to burn all of his belongings. Both characters immense amount of pressure led them to end their lives. Both Okonkwo and Ethan felt pressured by somebody to die with them or to leave their clan. The pressure that these two people felt eventually built up and reached a tipping point.

Despite being able to pull through all of their hardships, eventually, the tragic reoccurrences led to Ethan and Okonkwo making their impulsive decisions. Both characters underwent an exponential amount of stress due to the high expectations of the people around them. The decisions by both of these characters to end their lives were spur of the moment and not at all expected.” ‘Right into that big elm. So we’ll never come up anymore.’ ‘ Why, what are you talking of, are you crazy?’(Wharton 165).” Ethan and Mattie felt that running into the elm tree was the only way that they would ultimately end up together. Ethan and Mattie wanted to die so that they could stay together and finally be able to be happy. The same thing essentially happened with Okonkwo. “‘ That was one of the greatest men in Umuofia. You drove him to kill himself (Achebe 208).” As stated in the text, Okonkwo was one of the greatest men in his clan. But what would drive a man like him to kill himself? His stress and tragic experience. Both Ethan and Okonkwo did not want to live the rest of their lives in the conditions that they were currently suffering or about to suffer. They both killed themselves to seek joy and to put all of the hardships behind themselves. Although suicide is not ideal, the characters in both books felt that it was the only way out. Both Okonkwo and Ethan Frome’s surprising suicides or suicide attempts were in an effort to end their misfortune and seek joy.

Overall, the tragic deaths of Okonkwo and Ethan Frome were in an attempt of seeking finding happiness. The good moments in life did not seem to come as easily to the two of them, from years of exile to neverending guilt. Ethan and Okonkwo both reassured themselves that where they were and what they were doing was right. The two of them also crumbled under the pressure from their peers, which ultimately led to reckless decisions.

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Seeking Happiness: Comparative Essay on Okonkwo and Ethan Frome. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from
“Seeking Happiness: Comparative Essay on Okonkwo and Ethan Frome.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
Seeking Happiness: Comparative Essay on Okonkwo and Ethan Frome. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2023].
Seeking Happiness: Comparative Essay on Okonkwo and Ethan Frome [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2023 Dec 5]. Available from:
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