Virginia Woolf – the Death of the Moth

Battle between Life and Death Our existence is the battle between life and death. We face it everywhere; in people’s eyes’ and behavior, in the motions of the creatures that surround us and in the nature that somehow dies in the winter and gets a new life in spring. This battle is impossible to remain unnoticed because it is simply the way of life.

In Virginia Woolf’s essay “The Death of the Moth”, she writes about a moth that is trying to get ‘a new life’ by going through the windowpane and run away from death.Virginia Woolf was a significant figure in London modernist literary society and she was considered one of the greatest innovators in the English language. Due to her hard childhood, as her mother, sister-in-low and father died when she was young, she had several nervous breakdowns.

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Virginia had the illness which was called manic-depressive disorder in those times. On the march 28, 1941, Woolf filled her overcoat’s pockets with stones and drowned herself in the river near to her house. The Death of the Moth” was published in 1942, after her death, and this is the reason why this essay is considered to be written about her feelings before she decided to commit suicide. like the moth, she seemed to say, “Death is stronger than I am. ” The moth flew from one side, to the other, of his square of the windowpane. Nothing remained for him but this, while the “possibilities of pleasure” were enormous in that morning.The world, outside, was filled with such a vigor that it was hard for the author to keep an eye on the book; the rooks were soaring in the air with clamor, the plough was already started and the earth gleamed with moisture. The same energy that was outside inspired the moth too.

He was trying to escape the scarcity of the room, in comparison Virginia was trying to escape from her world of depression too. From the world which was not filled with the same energy that was outside. “He was little or nothing but life”, but the situation changed.The moth settles on the windowsill and Woolf forgets about him until she notices that the moth is trying to resume his ‘dancing ‘. Now his movements are slow and awkward, his attempt to fly fails. Woolf is like a spectator watching the struggle and that reminds us of her fight for recognition for all women and her personal struggle with mental illness. In World War II during the bombing of London when her London house was destroyed, she found herself unable to write and the next major pisode of her depression started.

She felt the fear of German invasion every day and she seemed to see the same enemy when she said; “The legs agitated themselves once more. I looked as if for the enemy against which he struggled. ” We might say that the conclusion begins when the writer, trying to help the moth with the pencil realizes that the moth is dying; and this awkwardness is the approach of death. The little moth is unable to right himself and every trial to fight brings him more pain and suffering.

As this is a philosophical essay, we may say that the motions of the moth are somehow related to humans facing irresolvable dilemmas and trying to find energy to continue their life. In the final paragraph, the writer’s attention shifts away from the moth to the world outside. It is midday and everything is stopped, the previous animation is replaced by stillness and quietness, as the nature expresses its sympathy like this.The energy is still there but it somehow stopped moving, “not attending to anything in particular. ” Near the end of the paragraph, Woolf uses her pencil to lift the moth once again, but realizes that the effort is futile and says, “The struggle is over”.

Yeah, this struggle is over but the battle between life and death is the same again. We will still be able to discover it around us, as it is a simultaneous and inevitable component of our existence.

Author: Candace Parker


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