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Clara Dillingham Pierson’s Short Story for Children ‘The Night Moth With a Crooked Feeler’

Too often we worry about looking perfect and beautiful, impressing people, and fitting in. However, beauty and status are not things worth seeking.

In her short story, “The Night Moth With a Crooked Feeler,” Clara Dillingham Pierson shows that, when we get caught up in beauty, looks, and status, we lose sight of character, kindness, and bravery. Pierson shows how the young moth, Miss Cecropia, learns that good character brings better, truer friends than beauty and status.

Young Miss Cecropia has just hatched from her chrysalis and is drying her wings. She impatiently waits to show off her beautiful wings, antennae, and legs.

An Old Friend

As she dries, she sees another young moth, Mr. Cecropia, who has also just sprung from his chrysalis. Upon seeing her, he calls out excitedly: “Good morning! […] I think I knew you when we were Caterpillars.”

She recognizes him, for, as a Caterpillar, he helped her find good food and they had become good friends. Yet Miss Cecropia realizes that she must not encourage him too much, for, she thinks, “I may meet people who are better off than he.” She is afraid he will pay her too much attention and she desires to be in the “best society.”

As they continue to dry and strengthen, Miss Cecropia realizes that Mr. Cecropia has a crooked feeler, a very unattractive trait. But Mr. Cecropia “thinks about other things than looks.” Her friendship is the most important thing for him.

A Good Friend

Night begins to fall and more moths approach. Miss Cecropia becomes agitated, worrying about her beauty and whether she will impress these other moths.

One moth lands next to her and begins talking to her. She is insulted, for he is very rude. But, before she can answer this rude moth, Mr. Cecropia knocks him off the branch, beating him for his rudeness.

With the first moth gone, another moth lands next to her. He is kind and handsome and rebukes the other moth for his rudeness. Miss Cecropia believes he might get her into the best society, but he asks: “Who is the Moth who is punishing him—that queer-looking one with a crooked feeler?”

In this moment, Miss Cecropia recognizes her unkind thoughts towards Mr. Cecropia. She is ashamed and angry. She bravely rebukes this new moth: “Sir, he is a friend of mine, and I do not think it matters to you if he is queer-looking.”

Though Miss Cecropia will now be rejected from the “best society,” she gains something far better. She gains a wonderful, true friend.

Miss Cecropia learns that the illusions of beauty and status tend to hide a lack of character. For, when we sacrifice kindness, bravery, and character for the sake of beauty and status, we lose ourselves in a never-ending, fearful search for belonging.

Pierson shows, as William Shakespeare says in “Hamlet”: “To thine own self be true.” Our characters and looks are so unique to us that we should not seek to alter them for another’s pleasure or approval.

Our differences are our strengths. Through our differences, we make ourselves and our friends stronger and more genuine.

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