Death of a Moth by Annie Dillard is a short story with three sections that brings in both narrative of decaying insects and Dillard's real world experiences with writing and living alone. In the short story, Death Of a Moth, Dillard conveys the meaning of loss and gain through syntax, tone, and diction. The definition of syntax is the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language. One example of the use of syntax in this story is when Dillard writes, "Dropped her abdomen into the wet wax, stuck, flamed, frazzled and fried in a second. Her moving wings ignited like tissue paper.and then this moth-essence, this spectacular skeleton, began to act as a wick. She kept burning." Dillard uses the sentence structure of consecutive verbs and adjectives to quicken the pace of the story. With these details, Dillard describes the nature of the moth and its death as stunning and unparalleled. Dillard uses the imagery of the moth-candle so that the reader is able to see her own views of inspiration; the moth is Dillard's own ideas and how it still lives on through the light of the flame. The importance of the story is not that the moth dies, but that the idea lives on just like how the moth caught fire and stayed alight "until I blew her out." Dillard looses the moth, but gains the light in the process. .
Tone is defined as an attitude of a writer toward a subject or an audience and is generally conveyed through the choice of words or the viewpoint of a writer on a particular subject. An example of this in Death of a Moth is "Two summers ago, I was camped alone in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I had hauled myself and gear up there to read among many thingsthat had made me want to be a writer when I was sixteen; I was hoping it would do it again." The tone Dillard gives off is somber and solemn. Here we see that Dillard has lost her inspiration to write and is grudgingly going up the mountain alone as a last resort to find her way again.