Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Told in the first person, “The Moths” revolves around rites of passage and religious imagery. The twoness of adolescence is captured in the girl’s androgynous body and actions, in the transfiguring sunset uniting earth and sun that signals the old woman’s death, and in the girl’s own impression of being half-born.

Viramontes uses symbolic imagery in creating the specifics of the granddaughter and grandmother’s closeness and the grandmother’s powers to heal. Hands are both metaphors and physical means of connection. The defiant sun is like the grandmother’s own life. The chili peppers that the girl prepares are like her own hot, tempestuous temperament. The tears evoked in roasting and crushing them brings a kind of spiritual remedy or release that is a spiritual substitute for churchgoing. In contrast to the cool and indifferent marble of the church, the grandmother’s house is a true sanctuary for the abused girl. There her emotional turbulence is transformed from a state of agitation to the calmness of a rose petal floating softly in the breeze and coming to rest beside the finished bowl of chile on the table. The girl is also like the seedlings that the grandmother protects in a can and then transplants so that they can pursue their mature growth. As the plants mature, their roots burst from the bottom of the rusted coffee cans in search of a place to connect, in search of water. So does the protagonist at the end of the story burst...

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The Moths Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Carbonell, Ana Maria. “From Llorona to Gritona: Coatlicue in Feminist Tales by Viramontes and Cisneros.” MELUS 24, no. 2 (Summer, 1999): 53-74.

Lawless, Cecilia. “Helena María Viramontes’ Homing Devices in Under the Feet of Jesus.” In Homemaking: Women Writers and the Politics and Poetics of Home, edited by Catherine Wiley and Fiona R. Barnes. New York: Garland, 1996.

Rodriguez, Ana Patricia. “Refugees of the South: Central Americans in the U.S. Latino Imaginary.” American Literature 73, no. 2 (June, 2001): 387-412.

Saldivar-Hull, Sonia. Feminism on the Border: Chicana Gender Politics and Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Saldivar-Hull, Sonia. “Helena María Viramontes.” In Chicano Writers, Second Series. Vol. 122 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1992.

Viramontes, Helena Maria, and Maria Herrera-Sobek, eds. Chicana Creativity and Criticism: New Frontiers in American Literature. Rev. ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

Viramontes, Helena Maria, and Maria Herrera-Sobek, eds. Chicana (W)rites: On Word and Film. Berkeley, Calif.: Third Woman Press, 1996.