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The Death of a Moth

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Natalie Ko

on 18 October 2013

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Transcript of The Death of a Moth

The Death of a Moth
by: Virginia Woolf

What is the purpose of this essay?
Why has the author written this essay?
Stylistic Device
Simile - “...until it looked as if a vast net with thousands of black knots in it had been cast up into the air; which, after a few moments sank slowly down upon the trees until ever twig seemed to have a knot at the end of it,” is phrase Woolf uses to help the reader visualize the gathering of a group rooks on a tree outside her window. Woolf uses simile to help create more visualized and vivid illustrations of scenes to the reader.

First Person – example is basically the whole essay but “– I watched these futile attempts for a time without thinking, unconsciously momentarily, no start again without considering the reason of its failure. “ By writing in first person, Woolf inputs a lot of her own personality into the essay and makes it so much more intimate and personal. These are good aspects to the essay because the main topic is rather depressing, therefore foreshadowing much of the writer’s own life.

Parallelism – “That was all he could do, in spite of the size of the downs, the width of the sky, the far-off smoke of houses, and the romantic voice, now and then, of a steamer out at sea.” The author uses parallelism to improve the readability and quality of her, therefore the reader is able to process and follow the flow of the writing better.

Metaphor – the author uses death of moth to represent how death applies and controls all species. She applies the life of the moth to that of human life. Woolf creates a beautifully written piece of work that makes a beautiful statement on the impermanence of life. “Again, somehow, one saw life, a pure bead.”

Personification – “– the rooks too were keeping one of their annual festivities, soaring round the tree tops until it looked as if a vast net with thousands of black knots in it had been cast up into the air, which after a few moments sank slowly down upon the trees until every twig seemed to have knot at the end of it.” By giving the moth human characteristics, Woolf allows the reader to be sympathetic towards the death of the moth and makes it so much more relatable to the readers own life.

Imagery – “- thrown into the air again in a wider circle this time, with the utmost clamour and vociferation, as through to be throw in the air and settle slowly down upon the tree tops -” The author uses imaginary to help the reader visualize and connect with the story better. Because the overall story is visualized so well, the story is projected into the readers mind in a vivid manner and a better understanding of the story is perceived.

The Death of a Moth by Virginia Woolf depicts the struggles of life. The story illustrates the moth's life and its eventual death. The author describes the moth in an exerting flutter back and forth in front of a window, exhausting itself until it falls to the window sill. The moth struggles to get back up but unfortunately too frail death takes it. The author depicts the moths’ struggles as one would compare to the ups and downs of a humans life cycle, when we as humans come across hardships we continuously tread water, in order not to drown, until we hopefully pull ourselves out.

The author thinking of her life’s struggles, as she watched the moth, and as we do in reading the story. Perhaps it was a factor in her eventual decision, as she obviously had struggles of her own, which lead to her drowning, suicide.

Leaving behind a very detailed suicide note for her beloved husband, where she details her happiness with him. But describes other struggles in life she had to endear and how she would not be able to put herself through that suffering again, so she, as did the moth chose death.

Appeal to emotion:

the end
The essay has a formal diction. It does not include any contractions nor slang.
Throughout the whole essay, I find that it's very dark and depressing, it's the fact that the moth was still "dancing" even when he knew that he's dying. The author also added at the end of the essay "O yes, he seemed to say, death is stronger than I am."
Background Information
The author had committed suicide by drowning herself in a river.
This essay is published after the author committed suicide.
A note Mrs.Woolf left for her husband
"I have a feeling I shall go mad," the note read. "I cannot go on any longer in these terrible times. I hear voices and cannot concentrate on my work. I have fought against it but cannot fight any longer. I owe all my happiness to you but cannot go on and spoil your life."
From: The New York Times
Learning Network
In addition, her husband testified that Mrs.Woolf had been depressed for a considerable length of time.
The author written this essay with the purpose of revealing her struggle against depression, or death, and her desire for freedom.
As the moth desires for freedom, and struggling against the death, so is she trying to overcome the depression.
As she described the moth, "O yes, he seemed to say, death is stronger than me," so is she described herself, "I have fought against it but cannot fight any longer." She actually revealed in the essay that she might give up her life.
Paragraph 1: Present the setting of the story to the audiences.
Paragraph 2: Introduce the moth, and compare the "hard fate" of the moth to the rest of the nature.
Paragraph 3: Reveal the idea that is symbolized by the moth - "the true nature of life".
Paragraph 4: Demonstrate the struggle against death.
Paragraph 5: The moth tried his best, but in the end he still died.
The author had used a logical narrative structure to present her essay and the idea behind, to her audiences.
As tiny and insignificant as one moth’s life would be to the world, the reader feels sympathy for the moth because of its own life’s value, showing its will and perseverance to live.
The writers own personality is very efficient in her writing. Her thoughts are very loud and clear. Reading from the story, the writer appears to be quite a well-educated and good person overall with her descriptive nature and intent on helping the moth. But in her writing, the author sees herself as just another soul on this planet that will one day met a fate similar to that of a moth. This is also a very interesting attribute because going into detail about the author’s life, this essay links oddly to her death. Virginia Woolf was quite an unstable person all her life. Having lived a very bitter sweet life that lead to her suicide at the young age of 59, The Death of The Moth oddly reflects Woolf’s own death.

“On 28 March 1941, Woolf put on her overcoat, filled its pockets with stones, walked into the River near her home, and drowned herself.”

With the ending statement in the story being “The moth having righted himself now lay most decently and uncomplainingly composed yes, seemed to say, death is stronger than I am”. Reflecting her own struggles in life, and how she had tried to right herself and put her life on track, but in the end, in all efforts, nothing worked, death perceived to be stronger than her just like the fate of the moth. Death is something you cannot fight.

What intellectual and/or emotional audience response is intended?
"It's okay to fail or to lose as long as you've tried your best to achieve what you want, because you will gain dignity instead."
Q1: why do you think the author uses a third person objective "one" instead of first person obejective "I"?
Q2: Why do you think the author withdrew her pencil from the moth instead of saving him?
"It's nothing but life."- Even though the moth seems to be so insignificant, he does not lie down and die; instead, he continues to struggle, continues to begin “futile attempts” to conquer the unseen “enemy” against which he fought
Woolf is constantly describing how the moth is struggling to escape from the window, yet the moth did not give up after experiencing multiple times of failure. And the audiences are touched by the describtions of the moth's action.
P.314 line 3- He flew vigorously.....
P.314 Paragraph 4 line 4- " It was as if someone had taken a tiny....
p.314 Paragraph 3 line 3- " He was trying to resume his dancing, but.....
Personal experience.
About Virginia Woolf:
Born in 25 January 1882

Died 28 March 1941 (aged 59)
River Ouse, near Lewes, East Sussex, England

Before death:
After completing the manuscript of her last (posthumously published) novel, Between the Acts, Woolf fell into a depression similar to that which she had earlier experienced. The onset of World War II, the destruction of her London home during the Blitz, and the cool reception given to her biography of her late friend Roger Fry all worsened her condition until she was unable to work.
The author gave the moth a human characteristics, which actually made it more sad and depressing, and it actually sadden the reader.
The way the author describe the essay made it really formal. She also wouldn't want to make it informal since it's on a serious topic.
The thesis can be found both in paragraph 3 and 5.
Full transcript