Dillard and Woolf Style and Effect Compare and Contrast Annie Dillard and Virginia Woolf both wrote beautiful essays, entitled “Death of A Moth,” and “Death of the Moth,” respectively. The similarities between the two pieces are seen just in the titles; however, the pieces exhibit several differences.
While both Dillard and Woolf wrote extensive and detailed essays following deaths of moths, each writer’s work displays influence from different styles and tone, and each moth has a different effect on the respective writer; Dillard utilizes more blunt, and often graphic description in her writing, contrasting with Woolf’s reverent and solemn writing. Dillard is affected by allowing her to contemplate the concept of eternity and purpose after death; conversely, Woolf reflects on her own life and the human race, as she compares the moth to herself.
A superfluous use of description emphasizes Dillard’s unique and meticulous style. The use of long sentences allows for abundant amounts of description, coupled with figurative language, and imagery. Dillard uses graphic verbs to describe the death of a moth. For example, in the midst of the death, Dillard describes it by saying, “… Her head jerked in spasms, making a spattering noise; her antennae crisped and burnt away… ” (“Death of a Moth”. ) However, she still manages to make the moth seem beautiful by calling its body, “a spectacular skeleton,” and comparing the moth’s wings to angels’ wings.
Dillard’s use of description allows readers to visualize the moth and its death. Dillard is relatively emotionally unaffected by the moth’s death, as opposed to Woolf, as seen in sentence structure. Dillard’s skillful description mixes brutality with beauty in order to describe death. The death of this moth leaves Dillard contemplating the sense of eternity, and purpose after death. Though the moth dies, and burns to a crisp in the candle, Dillard uses its body long after. For two hours, Dillard uses the moth as a wick and lets it burn in order to read her book.
The moth’s unselfish act displays the idea of eternity, and that there is in fact, purpose after death. Contrary to many people, including Woolf’s, beliefs, death is not the end of life. The moth becomes bigger than itself. It was a normal moth, yet its untimely death benefitted Dillard. Though reading a book may not be considered great, Dillard enjoys it, and would not have been able to enjoy it without the ultimate sacrifice performed by the mere moth, which became bigger in a single moment.
Unlike Dillard’s use of long sentences to create large amounts of description, Woolf uses short sentences to express her emotion. Beautiful adjectives and verbs, such as fluttering, flood Woolf’s writing, compared to Dillard’s gruesome verbs, such as sputtering, and jerked. Adjectives such as insignificant set up a depressing, emotional, and pensive tone. Using shorter sentences, such as, “The struggle was over,” (Woolf, “The Death of the Moth,”) and, “What he could do he did,” (Woolf, “The Death of the Moth. ”) allows the reader to think and reflect about it.
In Dillard’s writing, the reader often can imagine what they are reading from her blunt descriptions. In Woolf’s piece, readers reflect more on the meaning and the impact of the piece through the use of short sentences. Watching the hopeless death of the vulnerable moth leaves Woolf contemplating her own life, as she compares the moth to herself, and the human race. The moth, caught in a windowsill, is compared to the outside world by Woolf; while the moth flutters and exhibits life, so does the outside world; people are working and the sun is shining; but, when the moth dies, activity outside dies as well.
This untimely death proves how death affects all living things in the universe, even the smallest, including a moth, and attempts to delay or halt it are futile. This is shown in the quote, “… nothing, I knew had any chance against death… ” (Woolf, “The Death of the Moth. ”) An assumption can be conceived that Woolf wrote the anecdote while she was contemplating her own life, and on the brink of committing suicide. The moth represents herself, stuck in a rut, a rut known to the moth as a windowsill, with no logical reason to continue to live.
The essay shows that Woolf believes death must be embraced, because it cannot be avoided, as stated in her essay, “The helplessness of his attitude roared me. It flashed upon me that he was in difficulties; he could no longer raise himself; his legs struggled vainly… It came over me that the failure and awkwardness were the approach of death,” (“The Death of the Moth. ”) The effect of the moth’s death on Woolf differentiates from Dillard, because Woolf believes nothing can overpower death, whereas Dillard may believe purpose after death exists. Both essays bring compelling thoughts with the theme of death.
Dillard uses blunt and graphic description to describe how a death of a moth left her realizing the purpose people and animals can have after death, and that death is not the end. Moreover, Woolf uses short sentences to display her emotion, using beautiful adjectives. In her essay, it can be conceived the death of the moth made her think about her own life, comparing herself to the moth. Though the titles of the two works may give a hint to two similar pieces, both authors use different styles to explain the different effects the moth have on each of them.