Study Guide

The Moths Bull Hands

By Helena Maria Viramontes

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Bull Hands

Hold up… Bulls don't even have hands; they have hooves. So what's up with this image in our story? The narrator is a girl, but she's not like her girly sisters who can do fine needlework with their dainty little fingers. Instead our main girl has big hands which are too big for crocheting and embroidery work. When in the company of her sisters, the narrator is kind of like a bull in a china shop—and her delightful sisters decide to call her "bull hands" to tease her for this difference. Her response is to beat them senseless, but her Abuelita's response is to cure her:

My hands began to fan out, grow like a liar's nose until they hung by my side like low weights. Abuelita made a balm out of dried moth wings and Vicks and rubbed my hands, shaped them back to size and it was the strangest feeling. Like bones melting. Like sun shining through the darkness of your eyelids. (3)

Abuelita changes the narrator from a bull back into a girl, almost by magic. The comparison to bones melting sounds kind of scary, but then the simile turns sweet as sunshine is invoked. You know what else is kind of scary? The narrator's rage against her sister's—which melts away in its own right as she soaks up Abuelita's love.

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