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Excerpts taken from Virginia Woolf’s 1942 essay “The Death of the Moth”

“Moths that fly by day are not properly to be called moths;
They are hybrid creatures, neither gay like butterflies nor somber like their own species.

One could not help watching him.

One was, indeed, conscious of a queer feeling of pity for him. The possibilities of pleasure seemed that morning so enormous and so various that to have only a moth’s part in life, and a day moth’s at that, appeared a hard fate, and his zest in enjoying his meager opportunities to the full, pathetic. He flew vigorously to one corner of his compartment, and, after waiting there a second, flew across to the other. What remained for him but to fly to a third corner and then to a fourth? What he could do he did.

As often as he crossed the pane, I could fancy that a thread of vital life became visible. He was little or nothing but life. It was as if someone had taken a tiny bead of pure life and decking it as lightly as possible with down and feathers, had set it dancing and zigzagging to show us the true nature of life. Thus displayed one could not get over the strangeness of it.

As I stretched out a pencil, meaning to help him right himself, it came over me that the failure and awkwardness were the approach of death, I laid the pencil down again.”

A Moth's Choice
A Moth's Choice
graphite on paper
17" x 10"