This story takes place against the cold, gray, bleakness of a New England winter. Ethan Frome is an isolated farmer trying to scrape out a meager living while also tending to his frigid, demanding and ungrateful wife Zeena. A ray of hope enters Ethan's life of despair when his wife's cousin Mattie arrives to help.
When the novel opens, Nick and Susy are newlyweds enjoying a glimpse of the moon from the country home that they've borrowed from a friend for their honeymoon. Nick and Susy aren't typical newlyweds though. They have a deal and figure they'll be married to each other for about a year. At the end of that time (roughly determined as the amount of time in which they, the vastly entertaining but poor couple, can live off of their incredibly wealthy friends), they assume they will divorce and each remarry someone more suitable, by which they mean rich.
The House of Mirth tells the story of Lily Bart, a well-born but impoverished woman belonging to New York City's high society around the turn of the last century.