In “The Lesson of a Moth” Don Marquis uses symbolism and theme to express what he thinks is the lesson to life. The lesson is everyone should live their lives to the fullest and with excitement. Don Marquis lived a life surrounded by many deaths but also by much happiness, which may be the reason as to why he wrote poems with themes like this.
The use of symbolism in “The Lesson of a Moth” is shown throughout the entire poem. One of the uses of symbolism is the flame where the moth is willing to risk its life on. The flame shows the crazy things that people will do even if it will kill them in the end. Although they will be happy while doing it their lives will be cut short. “It is better to be happy for a moment and to be burnt up with beauty than to live a long time and be bored all the while.” (4.32). Marquis is using symbolism to show how easy it is to forget to live a happy life even if it means taking chances sometimes.
Another example of symbolism that Marquis uses is the moth. The moth symbolizes people floating around trying to figure out their own meaning of life.
A different element of poetry that Marquis uses is theme. The theme of the poem is finding the lesson to life and living through the little things that we find exciting. The speaker in the poem is most likely a cockroach named Archy who was previously introduced in Marquis` other stories. Archy is talking to the moth and in complete confusion about why he would want to end his life over one moment of happiness. “but at the same time I wish there was something I wanted as badly as he wanted to fry himself” (6.51). Archy would like to be more free spirited as the moth but does not want to take the risks that are involved in doing so. What the moth understands and Archy does not is the lesson of life that Marquis is trying to get across throughout the poem.