“The Moths,” the story that would become the title work in Viramontes’s first collection of short fiction, is even more representative of her central concerns and develops more deeply her feminist themes. Again two women play central roles: an older woman and her fourteen-year-old granddaughter. The technique of the story is less complex than “The Cariboo Café,” for the girl is the narrator throughout the short piece, and the structure of her story is fairly straightforward. However, the story is full of rich sensory detail (of sight, sound, smell, and touch), as well as the magic realism that infuses so much of Latin American fiction and that influences so many Latino and other writers.
Essentially this is a coming-of-age story, of a young girl who, in rebellion against her own patriarchal family, seeks comfort in the company of her grandmother and, in easing the grandmother through death, finds her own spiritual core. It is clear from the opening of the story that the girl is different, not “pretty or nice,” she admits, nor even “respectful.” She clashes with her family often, especially with the older sisters who try to bully her, and with a father who tries to make her fit a conventional mold, as by attending church. Her grandmother has requested her help, however, as the girl says in the story’s first sentence, for Abuelita is dying. Traditional religion is no solace here: The girl goes into a local chapel but only feels...
(The entire section is 593 words.)