The Death of the Moth by Virginia Woolf Essay

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‘The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf


Death is a difficult subject for anyone to speak of, although it is a part of everyday life. In Virginia Woolf’s “The Death of the Moth”, she writes about a moth flying about a windowpane, its world constrained by the boundaries of the wood holding the glass. The moth flew, first from one side, to the other, and then back as the rest of life continued ignorant of its movements. At first indifferent, Woolf was eventually moved to pity the moth. This story shows that life is as strange and familiar as death to us all. I believe this story was well written and will critique the symbolism, characters, and the setting.

Woolf uses symbolism in her essay when she speaks of the moth and
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This symbolism Woolf applies to everyday human life, making us understand that death will all happen to us one day, when it is our time. There is no escaping death when it comes for us.

The character of the moth and the way that Woolf’s story unfolds makes you, as a reader, feel as if you are there actually watching the moth die. Her descriptions of the moth’s flight and the struggle against death as he lived his life that day involves you in the mourning of someone or something you love dying. You feel every movement that Woolf saw in the moth’s life that day by reading this essay. As Woolf describes how the moth “flew vigorously to one corner of his compartment, and after waiting there a second, flew across to the other, “ you can feel the moth’s movements (1178).

In Woolf’s essay, the battle between life and death is somehow seen as both pathetic and noble. Pathetic because death will always win regardless the desire for life; but noble in how one faces death – on our back, defeated, or on our feet, and in dignity. Woolf states “one could only watch the extraordinary efforts made by those tiny legs against an oncoming doom which could, had it chosen, have submerged an entire city, not merely a city, but masses of human beings; nothing, I knew, had any chance against death” and shows the moth’s courageous journey into death (1179). “As I looked at the dead moth, this minute wayside triumph of so great a force over so mean…