Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A story of transitions and transfiguration, “The Moths” traces the passages of a girl into a woman, day into night, birth into death and into rebirth again. It explores the themes of female adolescence, particularly the pain faced by a young girl who does not fulfill the conventional expectations of femininity, and of patriarchal violence within a household and its effect on three generations of women. Love and the power to take care and heal is another theme, particularly displayed in the links between grandmother and granddaughter. As in her other work, Helena María Viramontes uses careful characterization and irony to display her meanings. Here the adolescent branded as selfish, sacrilegious, and disrespectful engages in a private ceremony that is deeply imbued with respect, selflessness, and religious awareness.