The Moths

by Helena María Viramontes

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 317

There are two main characters and four minor or lesser characters, all family members, in Viramontes's short story "The Moths."

Bull Hands (the nickname for the Granddaughter or the Narrator): The story is told through her eyes and point of view in a stream of consciousness manner.

Bull Hands is given her nickname from other family members for her clumsiness at crocheting and other things. During the course of the story, she is cared for by her Abuelita and cured of scarlet fever. Abuelita in turn is taken care of by Bull Hands as she begins to die.

Abuelita (which translates as Little Grandmother or Precious Grandma): In Spanish and Spanglish, adding -ita at the end of a name is a common way to show someone is precious or beloved. It does not necessarily mean physically small, though it's most commonly done with children.

Abuelita is the family healer, a common role in Latino families. It's also traditional even today that grandparents live with the extended family rather than live alone or in retirement homes or nursing homes as one sees in Anglo-American families.

Ama (the Spanglish way of saying Mama, the Mother): She is Bull Hands's mother and Abuelita's daughter. In the story, Ama is often blamed by Apa for what he sees as Bull Hands's rebellious behavior.

Apa (the Spanglish way of saying Papa, the Father): He does not play much of a role in the story. Mostly we see that the rest of the family is afraid to get him angry and that he will pound the table when he is agitated.

Marisela and Teresa (two of the sisters of Bull Hands): They may not be the only siblings. It is implied in the story there may be other brothers and sisters. The main thing the reader learns of Marisela and Teresa is that they are good a crocheting, which Bull Hands is not.

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