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The Man-Moth

The Man-Moth

by Elizabeth Bishop

Ambition Theme

In "The Man-Moth," the title character wants something, and he seems to understand what it takes to get it. He has taken his weaknesses into account, and he has made sure that they will not get in his way. He doesn't question his ability to achieve this goal, and to do so would probably be counterproductive anyway. In fact, his ambition becomes more of an obsession, blinding him to any potential problems with his goals or his ability to reach them. Be sure to read about how his obsession begins to blur the lines between his goals and his sense of self in the section on "Identity."

Questions About Ambition

  1. How does the Man-Moth's ambition reflect on Man in the first stanza? How does Man's ambition contrast with the Man-Moth's?
  2. Do you think that the Man-Moth's ambition is blind? 
  3. How would the Man-Moth react if a new obstacle suddenly presented itself? 
  4. Is getting through the hole the Man-Moth's only ambition?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The average person never experiences ambition as passionately as the Man-Moth. Jealous?

The Man-Moth's ambition is so strong that he may just die if he were ever to actually accomplish what he sets out to do. Darned if you do, danged if you don't…

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