Virginia Woolfe’s essay “The Death of the Moth,” entraps readers into the ongoing struggle of our own mortality. Through many words, phrases and paragraphs, readers become aware of the tragedy that all life has to offer; and that is the inevitability of death. Our insights of life versus death are brought down a few scales to the, “tiny bead of pure life.” This tiny bead of life is possessed within the misplaced existence of a day moth, “neither gay like butterflies nor somber like their own species. It is here, a story about this irrelevant organism that fights the final frontier of mortality determinedly, but also hopelessly as the end result of all life, must take its final course.
The story settles on a pleasant September morning. Ploughs scoring the endless fields, the moisture of overnight dew settling into the flat pressed earth, and the fluttering of a day moth from side to side about the square of the windowpane. Woolfe momentarily subjects readers to a queer feeling of pity for him. Personifying the moth to a “him” and not an “it” is perhaps an attempt to showcase the aspect of life in all living things and not just within this simple moth. Woolfe proceeds to describe the enormous and various varieties of possibilities of pleasure that such a morning holds potential. That to only have a day moth’s part in life seemed such a hard fate, “and his zest in enjoying his meager opportunities to the full, pathetic.”
Woolfe continues on with her writing, taking us to the time of day when she notices the awkwardness and failure in the moth’s attempts to flutter back and forth as it once did within the windowpane. Noticing the stillness of midday, which had replaced the previous animation of the working rooks, the horses and the ploughmen, Woolfe fails to find a culprit capable of obstructing the moth’s progress in flight. “It was useless to try to do anything,” she writes as watching the astonishing effort by the moth’s