Ethan Frome (Edited Classic)
A struggling young farmer, Ethan Frome labors under the weight of a miserable marriage. His wife, Zeena, is cold, self-absorbed, and ailing. Zeena invites her cousin Mattie to come live at their farm and do the housework. Soon after her arrival, she and Ethan fall in love. Should they run away together, abandoning Zeena and the farm? The situation soon forces them to take action.
Townsend Library classics have been edited to make them more accessible to today’s readers. But the books have not been “abridged” in the sense of shortening them by sacrificing story development, character richness, and the author’s voice. In our experience, abridged books result from a simplistic removal of large chunks of material or a formulaic “translation” that robs a book of its distinctive flavor. By contrast, as we produce a Townsend Library title, we seek to edit the material carefully and respectfully in order to preserve the qualities that have made the book a classic.
Townsend Library editors approach every book entirely on its own merits, guided constantly by these questions:
• “What will get in the way of a reader’s enjoyment of this wonderful story?”
• “How can the story be made more readable while preserving the integrity of the original book?”
Here are examples of editing choices made for two TL titles:
• Dracula—This story was written for people who were familiar with 19th century European geography, and the original contains countless pages of detail about cities, towns, rivers, ports, and travel routes that would make many 21st century readers’ eyes glaze over. Such detail, not at all integral to the story, has been reduced. Another example: Stoker was very excited about the new technologies of his day—such as shorthand writing and Thomas Edison’s “dictaphone” machine, which recorded the human voice on wax cylinders—and in the original Dracula, he goes on for many pages about these “modern” inventions. We minimized the number of details about these outdated inventions in order to get on with the story. We also replaced words that might be unfamiliar or confusing to today’s readers: for instance, the old French word “diligence” is changed to “stagecoach”; the phrase “toilet glass” is changed to “shaving mirror.”
• Jane Eyre—Revising Jane Eyre was mostly a matter of slightly simplifying complex sentences and deleting or explaining unfamiliar 19th-century English terms. For instance, a reference to the valuable "plate" in a house is changed to "silver"; the phrase "a false front of French curls" is changed to "a wig of French curls"; the word "benefactress" is changed to "guardian." The original sentence, "Or was the vault under the chancel of Gateshead Church an inviting bourne?" is changed in the TL version to, "Did I really think that the cemetery at Gateshead Church would be an inviting home?"
A COMMENT FROM A TEACHER
“I can tell how the editors love reading and love these books. I have taught for many years and have long been disappointed with ‘abridged’ books. But I compared books in the Townsend Library to the original source text, and in each case I have been amazed at the sensitive and precise treatment of Townsend’s editors. They have preserved the tension and magic of the original stories. Nothing is lost except those things which would be obstacles to today’s students.
~ Daphne Bell, College of DuPage, Illinois.
|Lexile ® Measure
|Ages 10 to 12, Ages 13 to 15