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The temptations of illicit passion are a theme in Ethan Frome. Wharton had been advised to take up writing more seriously to relieve her stress and tension, and many point to the possibility of autobiographical elements in the novel. Wharton delivers austere and penetrating impressions of rural working-class New England as the environment to explore Ethan Frome's marriage to an unsympathetic Zeena and the infatuation he develops for their maid.
Evelina, the title character, is the unacknowledged daughter of a dissipated English aristocrat. She is raised in seclusion and when she grows into a beautiful and intelligent young woman she travels to London to be introduced into society. The novel then follows her growth through a series of sometimes harrowing episodes. Some critics see the novel as autobiographical. Burney originally published the work anonymously in 1778 and only acknowledged authorship when the book became wildly successful.
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