Study Guide

Abuelita/Mama Luna in The Moths

By Helena Maria Viramontes

Abuelita/Mama Luna

In general, grandmas are pretty cool, but Abuelita takes things to another level by also being her family's official unofficial doctor. How do we mean? Well, she heals the narrator's scarlet fever with potatoes (don't ask us how), shrinks the narrator's hands when they're too big with dried moth wings (again, we have no clue how this technically works), and even sets the narrator's broken arm (okay, that's a doctor classic). Pretty cool, right? And importantly, this lets us know that a key part of her role in the family is to heal and help.

Along these lines, Abuelita's also the only family member who seems to have any compassion for the narrator. Her dad's a total jerk, and her mom just seems to cry all the time, but Abuelita is the one who both puts her foot down when the narrator is bratty and also takes care of her. When the narrator doubts Abuelita's powers, Abuelita promptly checks her:

"You're still alive, aren't you?" Abuelita snapped back, her pasty gray eye beaming at me and burning holes in my suspicions. (3)

As much as Abuelita will gently tend to the narrator, healing her when she's sick, she also knows when the narrator needs to be reminded of her place, and promptly does so. In this way, it's almost as if Abuelita is actually the narrator's parent—unlike Amá and Apá, Abuelita seems to understand the narrator, alternately showing her tenderness and tough love as the situation calls for.

Finally, let's talk about this granny's looks. In addition to being told that Abuelita has "gray wiry hair" (6) and is so sick that she falls out of bed constantly, we also learn that she has one brown and one gray eye. We might see her different colored eyes as representing a person on the brink of life and death, but what's really interesting about Abuelita's appearance is that she isn't presented as beautiful.

Given that the narrator, who hates her "bull hands," feels like an outsider within her own family for not fitting the narrow mold they hold for feminine beauty, it matters big time that the person she most respects also doesn't fit inside this mold either. Much as the narrator might resent her sisters and parents for their preference for all things dainty, in Abuelita she has a model for how powerful women can be no matter what they look like. This is one way that Abuelita's legacy will live on now that she's gone.

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