The Moths

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Learning Lessons Through Death
In the short story, “The Moths”, the narrator, a fourteen year old girl, assumes the responsibility of taking care of her cancerous and dying Abuelita. Her Abuelita is the only person who understands the narrator and the only person she feels she can turn to. After having followed man’s rules for so many years, Abuelita passes away. All the moths that lived inside her are freed and the narrator learns some life lessons. Helena Maria Viramontes uses symbolism and setting to illustrate the oppression of women in “The Moths.”

Viramontes uses symbols as a way of illustrating the oppression women feel to the narrator. The sun, the moths, and the bird of paradise are symbols to represent aspects of life to the narrator. The sun represents death and rebirth: “There comes a time when the sun is defiant. Just about the time when moods change… that hour or minute or second when the sun is finally defeated, finally sinks into the realization that it cannot with all its power to heal or burn, exist forever, there comes an illumination where the sun and earth meet, a final burst of red orange fury remind us that although endings are inevitable, they are necessary for rebirths…(Viramontes 1329). Even though the narrator was heartbroken because her beloved grandmother had died, she knew that with death comes a new beginning. After her Abuelita died, the narrator has a desperate need for her mother, even though, compared to her sister, she didn’t feel she belonged. The author also uses moths to represent the rules and traditions man created that women must follow. They represent women’s oppression due to man. They can only be released after death. Abuelita told the narrator about “the moths that lay within the soul and slowly eat the spirit up (Viramontes 1330).” These moths that eat up the soul represent the traditions that slowly degrade and destroy women. Another symbol Viramontes uses is a bird of paradise plant. The bird of paradise...
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