Revelation and Rebirth in Helena Viramonte's The Moths
The famous phrase "looks may be deceiving" strongly pertains to Helena Viramontes's short story, "The Moths." The story, instead of focusing the creatures in the title, is actually about a young girl who comes of age as she is faced with the deterioration and death of her grandmother. Even though the title, "The Moths," seems to have no relevance at the beginning, these creatures help to portray a sense of spirituality, rebirth, and become, finally, an incarnation of the grandmother. The relationship between the moths and the main characters aids in conveying the main theme of the story, which is not simply the death of a loved one, but a spiritual and maturing experience undergone by the grandchild.
The moths help illustrate a sense of spirituality in this short story. Abuelita, the grandmother, uses old remedies which stem from a religious/spiritual nature to cure physical illnesses such as scarlet fever and other infirmities. Her granddaughter is very disrespectful and doubtful of the medicines which her grandmother used, but they always work. The granddaughter tells us that "Abuelita made a balm out of dried moth wings . . . [to] shape my hands back to size" (Viramontes 1239). In this way the granddaughter begins to accept the spiritual belief and hope.
The spirituality is not only present in the moth wing balm, but is also evident after the death of her grandmother. A sense of spirituality is apparent in the quote, "Then the moths came. Small gray ones that came from her soul and out through her mouth fluttering to light" (1242). This presents a religious parallel in which the light resembles heaven. These moths represent angels who are carrying Abuelita?s soul to a better place where she may be reborn.
This action introduces the sense of rebirth which this story uses in order to create the central theme. Before Abuelita dies the author uses the sun to describe rebirths: "There comes a time when the sun is defiant . . . a second when the sun is finally defeated, finally sinks into the realization that it cannot with all its power to heal or burn exist forever . . . although endings are inevitable, they are necessary for rebirths" (1241). This description is very precise in the sense of rebirths because the sun "dies" and then is "reborn" every morning. The quote "and when that time came [sunset], just when I switched on the light . . . was probably then that she died" (1241) refers back to the spiritual aspect of the light being heaven, and this is when the doors of heaven first open for Abuelita. Abuelita?s rebirth is of spiritual nature and is started when the moths carry her soul through the doors of heaven.
Through the spiritual rebirth of the grandmother, the grandchild experiences a spiritual and personal rebirth of her own. It is the death of her grandmother which helps her mature or see the light. Evidence of the...