When I initially read Annie Dillard’s “Death of a Moth” I barely skimmed the surface. I did not really read between the lines or attempt to get into the author’s head. I simply thought the essay was about a woman who was intrigued by the many bugs that inhabited her home. After a long class discussion, I was able to revisit this piece of literature and select a new grouping of tones. The tones I have chosen to describe this work are as follows: piteous, allusive, and frustrated. As I read the essay, I began to pay more attention to the sentences that were about the narrator.
I wanted to absorb as much information about the narrator as I could. While reading, I learned that the narrator spends the majority of her time alone. She seems isolated from the rest of the world. In many of the sentences, she subtly mentions that she is alone. The sentence that begins, “I was camped alone in the Blue Ridge Mountains…” is a good example of this. I began to pity the speaker because she tries to make the reader think that she is content with being alone but the reader knows all too well that the narrator longs for male companionship.
While reading, I began to pick up on many allusions throughout the last half of the essay. The writer used the moth’s burning to create allusions for sex, purity, and hell. The speaker could possibly be a religious person because she uses words such as saint, God, virgin, and angel throughout the essay. The narrator could also be a virgin who does not believe in pre-marital sex. I began to think about this as I read the paragraph about the night she was camping. She mentioned that she had experienced an encounter with a swarm of moths.
She said, “…pale moths seeking mates massed round my head in the clearing, where my light made a ring. ” The ring of light was made by a candle. To me the ring of light symbolizes a halo and the swarm of moths circling her light would be temptation she faces to give up her purity. As I got further into the essay, I began to see the author’s frustration with herself and the lust she is experiencing. I believe that she watches the moth as it burns in the candle wax to remind herself why she waits until marriage to have sex. The moth burning away intrigues her, but that ymbolism of burning in hell is also the very thing that frightens her. The last paragraph tells us how, in just seconds, the moth’s once pure angel wings become destroyed. This could also symbolize her losing her purity. It would be gone forever. The essay tells us that the moth burned for two hours without changing. It was fighting to survive. This is representative of the willpower of the narrator. As I neared the conclusion of the essay, I read about the narrator and how she feels about her loneliness. She goes on to say, “I don’t mind being alone. I like eating alone and reading.
I don’t mind sleeping alone. The only time I mind being alone is when something is funny, when I am laughing at something funny, I wish someone were around. Sometimes I think it is pretty funny that I sleep alone. ” As I read these last few sentences I was forced to ask myself one question. Is the speaker really upset about her loneliness or is she proud of her decision? Yes, she may be lonely but her laughing at her loneliness makes it seem like she is pretty content with herself. She has made her decision and she will not give into temptation, unlike the moth who gave its life away for momentary pleasure.