To live and to die are the two sides of the same coin. Death is natural; yet, it is the subject of utmost contemplation. No one knows what death is like but everyone can feel its power, its magnitude and its presence. Life and death almost seem like riddles that most humans are incapable of comprehending and answering. Virginia Woolf, in her essay ‘The death of the moth’, has confronted this very issue- the vitality of life and the force of death. In this part narrative and part meditative essay, the struggle of a day moth has been shown as its “frail and diminutive body” succumbs to the enormity of death.
The moth being a “tiny bead of pure life” depicts the glory of life, “he was little or nothing but life”; strange how a mere moth too, is driven by the energy and vigor of life as it tries to make its way through the window. The creation of nature and life’s grandeur is always a wonder but that wonder slowly turns to pity as the moth’s attempts seem to bear no fruit. The moth slowly stops moving and it appears as if the moth has given up, death is gradually taking its hold on it. No matter how “content with life” the moth was, there was no escaping death.
When death approaches, there is neither running away nor any way of dodging it. Metaphors and similes have been used to present the clash between life and death along with attribution of human-like characteristics to the moth, gives a more definite stance to the abstractness of life and death. The sentiments are expressed in a manner that moves the reader and leaves them thinking about the subject. The actions of the moth arouse sympathy from the readers, in addition to expressing the impermanence of life all the while.
All the enthusiasm and drive of life is shattered once death takes over. Woolf’s marvelous creation, this essay is simple and subtle yet it manages to stir deep emotions in the readers directing them to quietly reflect on the presented thought. The tension between life and death still prevails but there is no saying which one is more forceful- the liveliness and energy of life or the shadow of death- although in the essay, death seems to win in the end. “Oh yes, he seemed to say, death is stronger than I am. ”