The Moths By Helena Maria Viramontes


Helena Maria Viramontes’ short story “The Moths” is a poignant tale of loss, love, and hope. The story follows the life of Esperanza, a young girl growing up in Los Angeles in the 1970s. Esperanza is forced to deal with the death of her mother, which leads to her own journey of self-discovery. The central idea of the story is that hope can be found in even the darkest of times.

The story begins with Esperanza’s mother dying from cancer. This event causes great upheaval in Esperanza’s life, as she is forced to move from her home and live with her grandparents. Despite the tragedy of her mother’s death, Esperanza finds hope in the form of a small moth that she finds in her new home. The moth becomes a symbol of hope for Esperanza, and she begins to feel more connected to her new home.

As Esperanza grows older, she faces additional challenges, including the death of her grandfather and the loss of her job. Despite these setbacks, she continues to find hope in the form of the small moth. The story ends with Esperanza’s grandmother telling her that moths are attracted to light because they are searching for hope. This final statement reinforces the central idea that hope can be found in even the darkest of times.

The short story “The Moths” by Helena Maria ViraMontes is about a Latina granddaughter recalling her relationships with her family, especially her grandmother, as a young girl. The narrator explains that because she feels she wasn’t beautiful enough and couldn’t “do the girly things they could do,” she was ignored by her sisters (ViraMontes 1119.) She also states that she is frequently in trouble and accustomed to receiving scolding for being disruptive.

The narrator’s grandmother is the only person who seems to understand her and she is always there for her despite the fact that she is hard of hearing. The central idea in “The Moths” is accepting people for who they are, no matter their flaws. The grandmother shows this by never giving up on the narrator, even when she is at her worst.

The title “The Moths” could be interpreted as how the protagonist feels like she is not good enough and does not compare to her sisters, just like a moth does not compare to a butterfly. Helena Maria Viramontes uses elements such as family, relationships, and identity to enhance the central idea of acceptance in “The Moths.”

The narrator describes a grandaughter’s experience as she cares for her sick grandmother. She spends her time watching over her grandmother since grandmother has always watched out for her. The grandmother progressively grows sicker throughout the tale with cancer, while the grandaughter matures emotionally and professionally responsible.

Finally the cancer kills the grandmother, and the granddaughter continues to take care of her, undressing her and washing her in the tub, as she holds her and rocks her back and forth.

The granddaughter mourns her grandmother, and at the same time she is relieved that her grandmother is no longer suffering. The central idea of the story is that sometimes people have to endure great pain in order to be truly free.

Thematically, “The Moths” is about how pain can both imprison and liberate us. The protagonist learns this lesson through her experience caring for her dying grandmother. The grandmother’s cancer causes her great physical pain, but as the story progresses, it becomes clear that the disease has also trapped her in a kind of mental prison. The cancer has robbed her of her memories and her ability to communicate. In the end, the protagonist realizes that it is only by accepting her grandmother’s death that she can truly free her from her suffering.

While the story is ostensibly about the grandmother’s death, it is also very much about the protagonist’s journey to maturity. The protagonist starts out as a child who sees her grandmother as a kind of protector. But as the story progresses, she becomes more and more responsible for her grandmother’s care.

By the end of the story, she has taken on the role of caregiver, and she is the one who must make the decision to let her grandmother go. In this way, “The Moths” is also a coming-of-age story. The protagonist learns some hard lessons about life and death, but in the end, she emerges stronger and wiser for her experience.

The grandmother releases moths from her at this stage; the grandmother tells her granddaughter, “Moths live within the soul and consume the spirit bit by tiny” (ViraMontes 1121.) The young lady sobs in the tub with her grandmother until her sadness turns to gladness.

The central idea in Helena Maria Viramontes’ short story “The Moths” is that people must confront the demons of their past in order to move on. The protagonist, a young girl, learns this lesson when she confronts the moths which have been tormenting her grandmother.

The story begins with the protagonist’s grandmother telling her a bedtime story about the moths which “lay within the soul and slowly eat the spirit up” (Viramontes 1121). The young girl is disturbed by this story and asks her grandmother if the moths are real. The grandmother assures her that they are not real, but the young girl remains unconvinced. The next night, the young girl sees the moths for herself and is terrified. She tries to kill them, but they keep coming back. The young girl tells her grandmother what she has seen and the grandmother tells her that the moths are indeed real.

The grandmother explains that the moths represent the demons of her past which have been tormenting her. The young girl is horrified by this revelation and asks her grandmother if there is anything she can do to help. The grandmother tells her that she must confront the moths herself in order to get rid of them. The young girl is hesitant at first, but she eventually decides to face her fears and confront the moths. After a struggle, she is finally able to kill them and free her grandmother from their torment.

After the grandmother dies, the grandaughter describes how the sun will not beam forever. It must retire in order to re-emerge the next day. She also realizes that “endings are unavoidable” (ViraMontes 1121) and that it is necessary to be reborn. The death of an old relationship gave rise to a desire for closeness with one who had been far away from her mother, and a new connection was formed as a result of her mother’s passing.

We need to be able to let our guard down, be vulnerable, and surrender to our emotions in order to achieve peace in one’s life during emotionally trying times.

The central idea in Helena Maria Viramontes’ short story, “The Moths” is that endings are inevitable and often lead to new beginnings. The title of the story, “The Moths” is a metaphor for the life cycle of a moth. The moths represent the grandmother and her granddaughter who are going through different stages in their lives.

The granddaughter is at a stage where she is trying to spread her wings and fly away, while the grandmother is at the end of her life cycle. The story demonstrates how death can be a new beginning for someone else. The grandmother’s death brings the granddaughter closer to her mother and brings new meaning to her own life.


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