Wharton describes Zeena’s physical appearance as gaunt, wrinkled, and sallow-faced. She has false teeth and her hair is kept in place with crimping pins. She is asthmatic and “sickly.” She speaks in a plaintive, whiny drawl.
Likewise, why did Ethan and Zeena stay in Starkfield? –Zeena liked living in a small town because she felt more important and liked looking down on people. As opposed to her living in a big city where people would look down on her instead.
Zeena changes Ethan through their marriage, and her illness. It is interesting when we find out that Zeena is actually Ethan’s cousin. It is questionable whether Zeena is sick or not. She often appears to be a hypochondriac.