Study Guide

The Moths Plot Analysis

By Helena Maria Viramontes

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Plot Analysis


Misfit Mission

The narrator makes it clear that she's the outsider in her family. She's always hitting her sisters, and they make fun of her because her "bull hands" are too big to do anything girly like crochet. Our narrator does have a good bond with her grandmother, Abuelita, though. When her mother asks her to go help out Abuelita, the stage is set for what's to come.

Rising Action

A Different Kind of Help

The narrator is happy to help her grandmother, but it's not the regular gardening chores. No, this time "Abuelita was dying" (6). Oh man—that's a complication if ever we've seen one. Hold on tight; it looks like we're in for a sob story. Abuelita's sickness and impending death kicks the story into high gear. We're officially in out-of-the-ordinary territory since, you know, it's not every day that a girl tends to her dying grandma.


Goodbye, Grandma

While the narrator prepares some soup for her grandmother, Abuelita dies. Death is the ultimate turning point; there's no going back from there (unless you believe in ghosts and zombies… or reincarnation… or the afterlife… but we digress). The difference between life and death divides this story in two.

Falling Action

A Squeaky Clean Farewell

The narrator cleans her grandmother's body, undressing her and carrying her to the bathtub. It's almost a ritual, even though the narrator probably has never done anything like this before. Now that the crisis has occurred, we see our main character begin dealing with its aftermath.


The Moths

In the tub with her dead grandmother, the narrator sees a bunch of moths fly out of Abuelita's mouth and fill up the bathroom. It's kind of surreal, but also a reference to Abuelita's homemade medicine, which often involved ground-up moths. Symbolically, it's almost like her death isn't final, like her spirit is coming out of her body and into the world to be with the narrator. Abuelita might be dead, but her soul soars on.

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