In her essay “The Death of a Moth,” Virginia Woolf uses syntax (the arrangement of chosen words or diction in a text) as well as varying sentence structure and punctuation to emphasize her viewpoints on the short life of a moth. Over the course of a single day, she observes a moth from its energetic beginning and vibrant existence to its fading, feeble movements and death.
The essay opens with a complex-compound sentence that has two independent clauses joined by semicolon:
Moths that fly by day are not properly to be called moths; they do not excite that pleasant sense of dark autumn nights and ivy-blossom which the commonest yellow-underwing asleep in the shadow of the curtain never fails to rouse in us.
Immediately, Woolf uses this sentence to sets up an opposition between night and day moths. This division of moths into two types foreshadows the duality of her observations (living versus dying) of a single day moth. The double negative of second independent clause—which has a dependent...
(The entire section contains 869 words.)