In today’s society it is easy to live life rushing through one task after another, never stopping to appreciate how spectacular the seemingly common things in our lives are. We never realize how fleeting our lives are until they’re over. In Virginia Woolf’s essay The Death of the Moth she observes this phenomenon through a moth buzzing around, attempting to escape her windowpane.
While reading a book in the morning time, a moth catches the speaker’s eye. She takes note that this moth is different from the other moths because it does not convey the same feeling of mysteriousness that moths that fly at night do. The speaker also notes that the moth does not give off a happy feeling that butterflies do, but nevertheless, it was content with its life (Woolf). The speaker also takes note of the flurry of actions going on just past the window. A plough has already tilled the earth, making the soil gleam under the morning sun, and the birds are gliding around the tree tops. All this energy and excitement existing just across the field from the house seemed to seep into the moth trapped in the windowpane causing it to flutter from corner to corner. Watching the moth helplessly flutter from one side of the window to the other causes a sense of pity to emerge in the speaker. To the eyes of the observer, the moth’s actions are completely useless, but to the moth he was, “enjoying his meagre opportunities to the full” (Woolf). As the moth senselessly crisscrossed a pattern across the windowpane, it seemed as if the moth was infused with a pure essence of life. It was an odd sight to observe because, as people, our image of life is one of tasks, troubles and burdens, while this moth’s biggest issue in life is how to get from one side of the window to the other. Imagining how the moth could have spent its life had it been born as a different creature increases the pity that one would feel towards the animal.
After some time, the moth grew tired of buzzing around and settled itself at the bottom of the window on the ledge. More time passed, and the moth attempted to resume his activities, albeit this time his actions no longer contained the same energy and zeal that he once had. This time when the moth tried to fly it only awkwardly fluttered around the bottom of the windowpane instead of zipping across. Assuming that the moth was merely tired and needed help righting itself before it flew again, the speaker picked up a pencil in order to help it. However, it quickly occurred to the speaker that the awkwardness of the moth’s motions was due to the rapid approach of its death which made the speaker set down her pencil and observe it some more. Looking past the struggling moth, the speaker noticed that all activity and motion from across the field had also ceased. It was as if the energy that had once seemed to seep into the moth from outside now worked against him. It was abundantly clear that there was nothing left to do to help the moth. On his last protest, the moth succeeded in getting on his feet. This action moved the speaker because “when there was nobody to care or to know, this gigantic effort on the part of an insignificant little moth, against a power of such magnitude, to retain what no one else valued or desired to keep” (Woolf). The death of the moth made it clear that no power in the universe is stronger than death.