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.
I am not familiar with Ethan Frome, but Nietzsche famously had a lot to say about the asceticism. His most developed thoughts on the matter are in On the Genealogy of Morality, specifically in Part 3, which is devoted to understanding what he calls the "ascetic ideal".
Theres an essay by Foucault, which he called Technologies of the soul, where he ties together Christian, and Graeco-Roman notions of the self which you might find useful.