Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The Moths, and Other Stories, Helena María Viramontes’s first short-story collection, contains eight tales and an introduction by Yvonne Yarbo-Bejarano. Two of the stories, “The Moths” and “The Cariboo Café,” have been reprinted in a number of anthologies of twentieth century American literature. In the introduction the collection, Yarbo-Bejarano notes that, although Viramontes addresses the problems of racial prejudice and economic struggles, the emphasis is on the cultural and social values that shape these women. She also suggests that most of stories involve the conflict between the female character and the man who represents an oppressive authority figure.

Viramontes’s writing is often characterized by shifting points of view and by fractured narratives that abruptly break off and sometimes leave readers confused. Her imagery, however, including a great deal of religious metaphor, is often poetic and occasionally merges into Magical Realism.

The short stories in The Moths, and Other Stories are noteworthy for raising crucial issues, especially in the growing and changing Latino and Latina communities. The girls and women in Viramontes’s stories try to find their own identities in spite of oppressive institutions, especially the family and the Catholic Church, which proscribe their actions and dreams. Young women make the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood among family members who do not understand them and who therefore restrict their personal growth. Older women, both those trapped in marriage and those free but isolated and lonely, struggle to carve out meaning in their lives. Also, the stories often end violently. While Viramontes focuses on gender, she also understands how social and cultural values other than those concerning gender roles also mold women’s lives. Viramontes’s approach is feminist, one...

(The entire section is 771 words.)