In this short story about two generations of females, Helena María Viramontes helps the reader understand how life is positioned between death and rebirth. The narrator, an adolescent girl, tells of her experiences caring for her grandmother, Abuelita (also called Mama Luna), during the last days of her life. These experiences required her to open herself fully to feelings of compassion, generosity, and love toward Abuelita. At the same time, the girl had to separate herself from her parents. To some extent, she replaced her mother, who was often paralyzed by grief. More generally, she had to exert herself in opposition to her father, who showed limited understanding of her nature and tried to confine her within patriarchal social boundaries.
An effective thesis statement will depend on one’s interpretive focus. One possibility is to emphasize the symbolic dimensions of the story by concentrating on the moths of the title, which emerge from the grandmother’s body at the moment of death. One could argue that the author emphasizes the idea of transformation by comparing the granddaughter’s passage into adulthood (through her grandmother’s departure) with moths’ emergence from a cocoon. This interpretation is supported by the name Luna, which is a type of moth.
Another possibility is to emphasize the practical aspects of the girl’s behavior, and the ways that she matures by temporarily supplanting her own mother. A related thesis would stress the tasks she performs, such as shopping, sitting at her bedside, and bathing along with Abuelita.