wondering if anyone can point me in the right direction. I am a high school student exploring a possible topic on Ethan Frome for literature class. I am trying to understand Ethan's moral values through what I see as asceticism. What should I read?
There is a quite readable book by Richard Finn OP titled Asceticism in the Graeco-Roman World. It is a wonderful source of historical accounts of asceticism and of, most importantly, the practices which characterize, or in many cases have characterized, the different currents of this latter.
I think this book gives you a good overview on what asceticism has meant for many different cultures and sects, that is, it gives you the big, historical picture.
If you want something more theorico-philosophical, I would agree on F. Nietzsche (I would recommed Thus spoke Zarathustra in this specific case) but also the Neoplatonical Corpus is heavily oriented towards self-denial and the restrain of the worldly. I think any good book on Plotinus, such as this book by Pierre Hadot (one of the best, in my opinion), would give you a good exposition of the main ascetic tenets of early Neoplatonism.