Study Guide

The Moths Genre

By Helena Maria Viramontes

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Coming-of-Age, Family Drama, Magical Realism

Time to Grow Up

Oftentimes characters in the coming-of-age genre go from childhood to adulthood in terms of years. This story's so short that this isn't the case for our narrator, but that doesn't mean she doesn't change a good bit and do some serious growing up. In fact, she goes from raging wildcard to single-handedly taking care of her grandmother's death with clarity and grace. So though the narrator doesn't acquire a whole lot of years over the course of "The Moths," she definitely does some serious coming into her own.

Drama for Your Mama

The narrator is caught up in all kinds of family issues when the story takes place. Between her father's violence—"[H]e would pound his hands on the table […] and scream" (8)—her sisters' teasing—"my sisters laughed and called me bull hands" (2)—and her grandmother's death, the proverbial poop is hitting the fan all over this family unit. When family relationships and history form a story's core, it's a family drama for sure.

Magical Moths?

Magical realism is a genre strongly associated with 20th century Latin American literature. Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende are famous writers who like to mix some magic into real life. The idea is that life is actually magical, so in an otherwise realist work—you know, where everything seems pretty normal and, um, real—the author will just throw in a ghost as though it's totally ordinary, too.

"The Moths" joins this genre when the moths fly from Abuelita's mouth when she dies:

"Small, gray ones that came from her soul and out through her mouth fluttering to light." (16)

We've never seen anything like this happen in real life before, but the narrator recounts the event as though it's no big deal, treating the magical as though it's totally real and in doing so, setting foot in the genre of magical realism.

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