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“Just as life had been strange a few minutes before, so death was now as strange.” Virginia Woolf’s The Death of the Moth explores the synthesis of two opposing forces in the world: life and death. In her writing, Woolf acknowledges both the inevitability of death and the happiness and joy life has to offer. When the piece begins, the speaker contemplates the simplicity but also complexity of life as she stares distractedly out the window. She is captivated by energy the lively movement of birds among the trees, the soothing energy of people going about their daily routine and finally, the purity and vitality of life represented in the moth. While staring out the window, she notes that life is fairly simple, but man complicates it: “one is apt to forget all about life, seeing it humped and bossed and garnished and cumbered…” For some humans, life and death is barely noticeable for them and they can die without having the chance to have “this tremendously exciting experience,” such as the speaker’s interpretation of the birds outside her window. For her, the unassuming moth represents “the true nature of life” because while its life is insignificant, it still is full of pureness and vitality that all humans should have too. Her sympathies lie with life even when the indomitable power of death; she moves to help the fluttering moth although she already knows its fate because “again, somehow, one saw life, a pure bead.” The only reason she feels almost awed by how easily death grabbed the previously animated moth is because she observed how strongly the moth wanted to live. Death without life means nothing. While the narrator acknowledges that fighting against death is futile because it is all-consuming, she also fully recognizes the valiance of the struggle against death and the energy and zest of life in humanity—life is worth fighting for. In the original line, the narrator equates the two universal forces of life and death. Finally, she concludes that the two are in an eternal struggle because both are strange and wonderful in their own way. Death is impressive, but only because life is too.
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