The Moth as a Symbol of Life in The Death of the Moth by Virginia Woolf and The Moth and the Star by James Thurber

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Our existence is an intricate battle in discovering what the concept of life means to us individually, We come across the idea of life in people, plants, and animals. In Virginia Woolf’s nonfiction essay The Death of the Moth and James Thurber’s fiction essay The Moth and the Star, the authors analyze the behavior of moth’s to clarify to their readers that you can discover life in almost anything, even in a creature as simple as a moth. Both authors use the character of a moth to symbolize life in a way that exhibits a yearning for success, yet with barriers. They envision an immense amount of life in the main character of the moth, as they do in human beings. Although the moths are portrayed to be full of life, both essays display the meaning of life being a complex roadway to success, with restrictions, boundaries, and shortcomings.

In Virginia Woolf’s essay The Death ofthe Moth, she analyzes a moth’s struggle when trying to go from the confined area of the office window, to the independent world on the outside. Woolf see’s life in the moth when she realizes the similarities between the way that the birds and horses move outside and the way that the moth moves from the four corners of the window, Woolf says, “The same energy which inspired the rooks, the ploughmen, the horses, and even, it seemed, the lean bare-backed downs, sent the moth fluttering from side to side of his square of the window-pane.” The movement of the moth had seemed so lively and high- spirited to Woolf, that she compares it to the vibrant and lively scene of workers and animals right outside of her window, Woolf explains the moth’s struggle to achieve his goal, which is to successfully make it outside of the window.

Woolf explaine , “What he could do, he did,” meaning that the moth did everything in its power to make it outside. He was yearning and striving for his plan to succeed, as humans do in every day society, Woolf explains that the moth’s work ethic is like that of a human being. Taking a different approach at interpreting Virginia Woolf’s meaning of life, I have come to the realization that Woolf uses the moth to signify life to saow her readers that although life is all about becoming successful, there will always be limitations. Woolf explains this when she says, “The possibilities of pleasure seemed that morning so enormous and so various that to have only a moth’s part in life, and a day moth’s at that, appeared a hard fate, and his zest in enjoying his meagre opportunities to the full, pathetic.”

The mot ‘5 freedom is being limited to Woolf’s minuscule office and is not able to encounter the endless possibilities outside of the window due to its current setting situation and shape Using shape and setting as limitations for the moth, Woolf connects these concepts with the idea of stereotypes. Women are always being limited as human beings, hence the fact that Woolf is at home, what women are “supposed to be doing.” Woolf is insinuating that human beings go through ife as a window, and that we are trapped going from corner to corner as the moth did. Woolf suggests that life as a human being comes with certain restrictions and limitations, and that although we give it our all in some situations in life, sometimes there are boundaries that we cannot cross, James Thurber offers many observations, of a moth tiat desperately and continuously attempts to reach a specific star in outer space, titled The Moth and the Star.

The moth is used to signify to the readers that the meaning of life is to accomplish your goals in order to be successful, Thurber explains ”Every evening at dusk when star came out he would fly toward it and every morning at dawn he would crawl back home worn out with his vain endeavor.” What Thurber is trying to say is that the moth refuses to settle for a street lamp, therefore he is persistent at trying to reach the star, The moth rejects conventional goals that his father sets for him, and chooses a goal out of love. The author gives the moth a tremendous amount of human characteristics, including commitment and persistence.

Human beings possess these qualities when they are on the path to success, and according to Thurber, that is the meaning of life. Boundaries are something that limit human being’s path to success. Similarly, the moth in Thurber’s fable finds himself unable to achieve his unrealistic goal due to some restrictions. Thurber says, “He went right on trying to reach the star, which was four and one-third light years, or twenty five trillion light years, away (60).” This goes to show that although the star was evidently unreachable, the moth was determined to give it his all. His success is limited due to the distance from earth and the star, Similarly, to be alive in today’s society means to have some type of ambition for success.


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The Moth as a Symbol of Life in The Death of the Moth by Virginia Woolf and The Moth and the Star by James Thurber. (2023, Jun 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-moth-as-a-symbol-of-life-in-the-death-of-the-moth-by-virginia-woolf-and-the-moth-and-the-star-by-james-thurber/

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