The glow of light that attracts fluttering moths is a metaphor for a sort of goal which acts as an end point to be reached. In Moth Stories, by Leonora Liow, individual characters are put into narratives with an aim to be achieved. A collection of short stories, Moth Stories is Liow’s first published collection. Ambitions are planted, nurtured and cultivated.
In Majulah Singapura, a mother stresses over plans towards progression. She pumps tuition sessions, sports classes and enrichment courses into her children’s schedule. She claims she does not want them to be “second-rates”. For the mother, entry into the gifted programme or into a reputable junior college is the only way to reach that flame where her children are one step closer in the march towards the finish line of a never ending trajectory of constant upgrades.
In Moth, however, the glow of light emits a type of clarity that the protagonist, Salimah, seeks. Salimah is a resident of a hospice for people shunned by society because of an illness society does not understand, and Salimah says, does not want to understand. Deprived of familial contact, she sees her daughter in the child who visits her. From the kindergarten situated next to the hospice, she passes him a stuffed toy. Although breaking the rules of the hospice, her decision to make contact with the outside world is a bold one where distance between society and those who are seen as outside of society is traversed. Reconnected and reintegrated, Salimah has found a clarity.
For A Modern Girl’s Quandary, the glow of light is a desire to assert an agency. Agnes, the protagonist, sees her mother’s reliance on fate as an excuse for passive acceptance. Coming from a poor background, she is dissatisfied with her status in life. Choosing to be a companion to a much older and married businessman, she sees marriage to him as an escape from her dismal life. However, it seems that the glow of Agnes’ light is flickering. Instead of being offered a hand in marriage, she is instead offered an expensive house in a swanky part of town. Now, Agnes cannot insist on marriage because it is clear that she is set on the path of remaining as a mere companion to a rich man who does not want her for a wife.
Delving deeper into Liow’s stories, a sense of the investigative emerges where the psychological state of characters is traced. The reader discovers the historical forces shaping the characters’ development. From the demands on women as wife, mother and daughter to the hopes of a migrant worker who is submerged from the weight of work, Moth Stories also reveals and unravels the surface of society.
For anyone wanting an engaging read that highlights social issues with nuanced portrayal of characters, you may want to check out Moth Stories. Moth Stories may be found here.
Image Credit: Ethos Books