Woolf, Virginia. “The Death of the Moth”, The Bedford Reader, ed. X.J.Kennedy, Dorothy. M.Kennedy, and Jane E.Aaron. Boston, MA: Bedford/St.Martin’s, (2003).
Comments on Setting of “The Death of the Moth”
“The Death of the Moth” describes the persistent struggle of a moth against death but fails at last. Besides the symbolism of the moth and the literary techniques employed in the article, the setting is an important element in the success of the story. The story is set in a natural world in a peaceful morning. The setting helps establish the theme of the true nature of life, insignificance against significance, and entrapment.
What is the true nature of life? The answer has already been given– “the enormous energy of the world” (700).
The setting helps building the image that the whole world is energetic: “[rooks soar] round the tree tops…, after a few moments [sink] slowly down upon the trees” (700).
Every creature impresses readers of its noises and animation. Besides that, the struggling moth, as a symbol of energy, is also inspired by “[the vigor that comes] rolling in from the fields” (700).
Meanwhile, the enormous energy of natural world serves as foil to the insignificance of the one day moth. The outside “with the utmost clamor and vociferation” (700) is “tremendously exciting” (700), while the moth is “fiber, very thin … frail and diminutive” (700).
"Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality" -T. S. Eliot Being an expatriate T. S. Eliot was extremely affected by World War I and as a result his writings were blatantly dominated by his cynical views of the world around him. Constructed in 1925 Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men" was one of many ...
Even one “[feels] of pity for [it]” (700).
Moreover, “in spite of the size of the downs, the width of the sky, the far-off smoke of houses, and the romantic voice, now and then, of a steamer out at sea” (700), the only thing that the moth can do is flying from one corner to another. It is a powerful contrast between the colorful natural world and the one day moth, which makes readers feel of pity for the moth as well because it seems so vulnerable.
The last vital function of the setting is to accomplish the theme of entrapment. The major entrapment is obviously death itself, but there are piles of little entrapments hidden in natural world. For example, the horses are hooked to the field; the rooks can never fly all day long, after a few moments, they have to “[sink] slowly down upon the trees” (700).
Thanks to the setting, readers will see that everything in the story cannot escape from entrapment no matter how free it seems to be.
Last but not least, setting plays an important role in supporting the theme. Through the setting, peaceful and pleasant morning, Woolf builds a powerful stage for the one day moth to perform on. Without the help of it, the color of the theme will fades away.