This article examines how and why Edith Wharton's representations of disability played a key role in shaping the early interpretive community's reactions to Ethan Frome. Several reviews converge to demonstrate that Wharton's preoccupation with atrophic bodies and minds provoked a disenchantment with Ethan Frome after its initial appearance in print in 1911. In the eyes of some reviewers, disability amounted to a controversial feature that made Ethan Frome seem unassimilable within the concept of an ideal novel and self. Contextualizing the novel within its immediate reviews reveals how it engages with the Progressive Era's take on the “proper sphere” of disabled people both on the literary and cultural landscapes. The strong responses—even objections—to disability in the 1911 reviews stirred noteworthy discussions about impairment and normalcy, signifying that Wharton's work not only provoked resistance toward manifestations of unresolved disabledness but also participated in the debates about the acceptability of cultural expressions of disability.

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