BY BERNIE NGUYEN
For the Daily
Published March 24, 2004
When will a spirit break? What are the factors that describe a
person’s soul, and when does the label that society assigns
to you come to define who you are?
“Slave Moth,” a beautiful narrative written in lyric
verse by English Prof. Thylias Moss, tells the story of a literate,
confident and proud young slave named Varl. Neither submissive nor
passive, she is the opposite of everything a slave should be.
Varl’s refusal to allow herself to be defined by her
circumstances makes her conscious of the wonders of living.
Her master is painfully fascinated by the deformed and the
unusual. His twisted obsession with the misshapen leads to his
fascination with Varl. He cannot understand her inherent resistance
to the confines of slavery, but is drawn to her more because of
Through one of her master’s books, Varl learns of a
special creature, the Luna moth, that transforms itself from a drab
caterpillar into a luminous silver insect. Upon this discovery, she
is determined to lift herself out of oppression and into an
existence of freedom and joy. Varl’s mother — a
powerful woman who secretly rebels against slavery by teaching
other slaves to read — has given Varl the means to undermine
the misery of her slave life. With no paper, she makes a special
cocoon by stitching letters onto pieces of fabric by moonlight.
Pinned under her dress, the fabric makes her feel safe and
protected from the world. With each movement, she is reminded of
those she loves and is sheltered from the darker moments of her
life. Through the transformation of her romance with a fellow
slave, her building desire for freedom and the culmination of her
master’s growing obsession, the cocoon is used as a plot
device to weave the story together.
The story is compelling, and the poetry of the novel adds
another level to the already poignant narrative. Moss writes a
well-crafted story. Its unusual structure of poetic verse provides
appeal to readers of both genres of literature. Much human
experience can be found in the simple words that weave a complex
story of spirit, endurance and fortitude. It explores human
identity and both protests the limitations of the human condition
and gives insight beyond the boundaries of the present.
This book is inspiring and thought-provoking, drawing the reader
into the characters and events without limiting the objective
scope. The story highlights the potential strength of the human
spirit and the power to free oneself from any limits.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars