The death of the moth | Written Essays

Eubaphe mendica, also known as the Beggar, is a small yellow moth of fragile appearance and almost translucent wings. In her famous essay, ‘The Death of the Moth’, the English writer Virginia Woolf describes the final moments of just such a moth. It is trapped against a pane of glass. It cannot understand its predicament. It keeps trying to get through, but its energies are limited, its knowledge is too small and its lifespan is desperately short. To be touched by this is to be touched – ultimately – by our own similar fate. We too have brief existences which we risk (so very easily) in hopeless, mistaken efforts; we too are misled, fatally, by things that we think are attractive, and for us as well, death comes far sooner than we would like.

Virginia Woolf, The Death of the Moth (1942) Cover design by Vanessa Bell.

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Death of the moth. “The Death of the Moth,” written by Virginia Woolf, explains the brief life of a moth corresponding with the true nature of life and death. In this essay, Woolf puts the moth in a role that represents life. Woolf makes comparisons of the life outside to the life of the moth. The theme is the mystery of death and the correspondence of the life of the moth with the true nature of life. The images created by Woolf are presented that appeal to the eye. For instance, the moth’s body during the death is appealing to the eye. The image makes the reader more interested. The essence of true life is energy. As Woolf describes, “I could fancy that a thread of vital light became visible. He was little or nothing but life” (Woolf 427). The thread of vital light represents the energy.

The Death of the Moth - B-E Advanced Placement Language 2007

byVirginia WoolfDeath is a difficult subject for anyone to speak of, although it is a part of everyday life. In Virginia Woolf's "The Death of the Moth", she writes about a moth flying about a windowpane, its world constrained by the boundaries of the wood holding the glass...

The Death of the Moth by Virginia Woolf - AbeBooks


In the story "The Death of the Moth", Virginia Woolf illustrates the universal struggle between life and death. She portrays in passing the valiance of the struggle, of the fight of life against death, but she acknowledges as well the futility of this struggle. Virginia Woolf’s purpose in writing this passage is to depict the patheticness of life in the face of death, and to garner respect for the awesome power that death has over life.Death is a difficult subject for anyone to speak of, although it is a part of everyday life. In Virginia Woolf’s “The Death of the Moth”, she writes about a moth flying about a windowpane, its world constrained by the boundaries of the wood holding the glass. The moth flew, first from one side, to the other, and then back as the rest of life continued ignorant of its movements. At first indifferent, Woolf was eventually moved to pity the moth. This story shows that life is as strange and familiar as death to us all. I believe this story was well written and will critique the symbolism, characters, and the setting.