Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 462
The Moths, and Other Stories focuses on the lives of Chicana women of various ages and backgrounds. The women in Helena María Viramontes’ stories often face identity crises—they struggle with religion, adolescence, sexuality, family, and aging.
“The Moths” narrates the growth of a fourteen-year-old girl who cares for her grandmother. The grandmother’s home is a refuge for the young woman, whose home is ruled by her father. When her grandmother dies, the girl laments the loss of a strong female figure who has helped shape her identity. “Growing” also focuses on a young Chicana woman who struggles with adolescence. Fifteen-year-old Naomi looks forward to her first date until her parents make her take along her little sister Lucia as a chaperone. Naomi insists that dating is “different” in America, but her parents insist on their own customs and Naomi wonders about the difficulties of growing up in a new country.
In the stories focusing on young women Viramontes raises the issues of religion, reproduction, and marriage. In “Birthday” a young, unmarried woman struggles over her decision to abort a child. “The Broken Web” focuses on a young woman and her struggles with repressed family memories. Martita learns that her father, Tomas, beat and cheated on her mother, and that her mother finally snapped and killed Tomas. “The Broken Web” shows a young woman dealing with the violence of her childhood. In “The Long Reconciliation” Amanda and Chato’s marriage falls apart when Amanda refuses to bring children into their meager existence. After Amanda aborts their first child, Chato refuses all sexual contact with her and their marriage ends. “The Cariboo Cafe” focuses on the struggles of a young mother. Two children are kidnapped by a woman who has lost her own child in the political problems in Central America. Eventually the woman is discovered, and the children are taken away from her. She screams for her own son, Geraldo.
The final two stories focus on older women. In “Snapshots” Olga Ruiz, a middle-aged divorcée, attempts to come to terms with her past identities. As she sifts through family photographs, she realizes how little she has left of herself—she was too busy being a good wife and mother. “Neighbors” focuses on a lonely, elderly woman. Aura has nothing but her beautiful garden and her neighbor, Fierro. When a strange woman visits Fierro, Aura is upset by the change in their relationship. In her struggles with loneliness, Aura becomes fearful, and “Neighbors” examines the loneliness, isolation, and fear of being an old, solitary woman.
Women’s issues are Viramontes’ focus throughout The Moths, and Other Stories, and her narratives focusing on the struggles of primarily Chicana women are tinged with the complexities of adolescence, sexuality, marriage, poverty, and family.
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