When I read, I often wish I could see the world the writer creates exactly how the writer must have seen it in his or her mind. I suppose that is one reason why I tend to be easily frustrated by those movies based on novels—never will the films uphold the vision of this story world as I would have imagined it being created and existing inside its creator. And yet, there are some writers who do wield that elegant power, the power to use language to create and freeze moments for us, and they do so with a vibrancy that illuminates the story world in such a way that we, as readers, know that we, too, are looking through the same lens as the writer, and in such moments, there is a bond that is soldered between reader and writer, in which the reader must be struck by the grace of what is occurring in a way that he or she may never forget the particular passage and what he or she witnessed there.
While Virginia Woolf’s “The Death of the Moth” is not a story (fiction), but rather, it is an essay, Woolf’s skill at harnessing words and phrases, making them bend to her will, gives the reader the illusion that he/she is not reading a work of nonfiction. It seems perfectly natural that we would pick up this essay, and within moments, find ourselves transported into Woolf’s story world before we even recognize that not only are we embedded in the universe she has created with language, but we have forgotten to be on our very best guard, as we have sat down to pour over an essay, not a short story.
As I read “The Death of the Moth,” I felt as though I was sitting next to Woolf, and the both of us were watching all she describes transpire. I, too, felt the pity and awe that she divulges feeling while observing the moth. Never did I have to wish I could see the world created by the writer—Woolf put me right beside her the entire time I lived in her world.
The great thing is, is that I am really beginning to realize that I very well may like Woolf’s essays more than her stories and her novels. Every time I read one of her essays, I begin thinking about certain things (whatever is prompted by any one essay) in new and exciting ways. This particular essay caused me to actually, consciously think about the death of an insect—it sounds so strange, even to me; however, I recall in those moments after I finished this essay, feeling a weird detachment from death, as though I would always be the one watching the moth as it died, never the dying moth.
The things Woolf makes me think!