In this essay, Woolf sees a moth at her window on a pleasant mid-September day. The moth, full of energy, flies back and forth across the window pane. Woolf finds her attention caught by the moth's movement. The moth seems both pathetic to Woolf, because its area of activity is confined to a window pane, and yet at the same time marvelous:
It was as if someone had taken a tiny bead of pure life and decking it as lightly as possible with down and feathers, had set it dancing and zig-zagging to show us the true nature of life.
The moth eventually settles down quietly on the window sill. But when Woolf looks at it again, it is on its back, its feet waving in the air. It's dying, but Woolf nevertheless marvels at the valiant effort it makes to hang on to life:
this gigantic effort on the part of an insignificant little moth
The moth dies and Woolf finds his death as strange as his monumental struggle for life:
Just as life had been strange a few minutes before, so death was now as strange.
The essay is pure Woolf, showing how much attention she paid to the smallest details of everyday life. The moth becomes a symbol for all of our urgency to live to the fullest, no matter how insignificant our lives. Its death at the end shows that we all will die:
O yes, he seemed to say, death is stronger than I am.