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Death of a Moth

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Luke Jewiss

on 17 September 2013

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Transcript of Death of a Moth

Death of a Moth
- The story takes place on a September morning
- The writer observes a day moth as it aimlessly flies about a room
- Woolf uses the moth as a symbol of her own life, relating it's actions to the way she feels about herself
- Woolf uses the same tool to help the moth as she uses in her own life to help herself
- But, before she can help, the moth makes one final, fruitless struggle, passing away on the windowsill
New Criticism
Brief Summary
- Takes place in Woolf's writing room
on a pleasant September day, overlooking
the fields through the window
- The moth's death is foreshadowed as it goes through the stages of life
- The climax takes place as the moth passes away, forcing Woolf to realize that the method she uses to cope with her life is not enough for her or the moth

- "I lifted the pencil again, useless though I knew it to be. But even as I did so, the unmistakable tokens of death showed themselves"
- The conflict is internal; Woolf is struggling with her depression, relating her own life to that of the moth

- She tries to help the moth using a pencil, but she soon realizes that this tool is useless
- The moth represents Woolf's life and how she views herself
- The pencil represents her coping mechanism; it fails to safe the moth
- The way that Woolf copes with her life is through her writing.
- The pencil, representing her writing, fails to help the moth and Woolf realizes that it can't help her either
Point of View
- The point of view is from Woolf in a first person perspective
- The room she is reading in represents the depression she has experienced throughout her life
- She sits in the room watching a day moth as the world outside, visible through the window, is beautiful and full of life and activity
- "Such vigour came rolling in from the fields and the down beyond that it was difficult to keep the eyes strictly turned upon the book
- Virginia Woolf was born to a wealthy family in 1882
- Both of her parents had been widowed and married before, so Woolf had three full siblings and four half siblings
- Woolf had a traumatic and depressing later childhood as she was sexually abused by two of her half brothers, and her mother and half sister died in the span of 3 years. These events largely contributed to her lifelong periods of depression and mood swings
- Woolf turned to writing after taking language at King's College London
- Writing was her way of coping with her depression and she could escape the real world
- The moth tries so hard to survive which represents how Woolf views her own life
- She says that people don't value life because they don't have to struggle to survive
- "Also, when there was nobody to care or to know, this gigantic effort on the part of an insignificant little moth, against the power of such magnitude, to retain what no one else valued or desired to keep, moved on strangely"
- The moth does not see that it is dull, there are no mirrors; it could believe that it is a butterflies
- "Nerveless the present specimen, with his narrow hay-coloured wings, fringed with a tassel of the same colour, seemed to be content with life"
- This essay was published a year after Woolf committed suicide
- As she makes the moth a symbol of herself, it can be seen as her summarizing her life and coming to terms with everything that as happened to her.

- The essay is almost a suicide note of sorts because she reveals how depressed she is and has been
- Woolf is making everything she describes in the room around her a symbol of her own life
Discussion Question
Full transcript