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Literature / The Moth Diaries

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A 16-year-old girl in an isolated Boarding School of Horrors full of tension, fear and emotional issues begins to write in a diary, confiding her growing suspicions of the dark-eyed new girl, Ernessa, and unrealised crush on her roommate and longtime friend, Lucy. The series of ominous disasters that occur throughout the academic year cause paranoia to spread through the school, until reality and dreams mingle together into a corrupted blend of the anxieties, lusts and neuroses of adolescence. At the center of the story, written in diary form, is a question that gives the book its undercurrent of gothic menace - is Ernessa really a vampire, or is it all part of the narrator's imagination?

Originally a book by Rachel Klein and published in 2002. A film adaptation was released in 2011 directed by Mary Harron.

This work provides examples of:

  • Abstract Apotheosis: Ernessa, representing sublimation, sex and the future.
  • Abusive Parents: Lucy's father. Maybe.
  • Afraid of Blood: Beth, the "little mouse" who feebly attempts to kill herself for attention and interrupts the narrator's sleep.
  • Aloof Ally: Dora.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Ernessa. She spends most of her time with Lucy and does not form any other bonds with the girls or the staff.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Lucy and Ernessa's homosexual longings are more subtly implied (although there are a couple very suggestive scenes) in the film in contrast to their more blatant exploration in the book.
  • Anger Born of Worry: The narrator is worried about Lucy's constantly worsening state, even more so as nobody else seems to care very much about it. At one point, she angrily drags Lucy in front of a mirror to make her look at herself - instead, Lucy points out that the narrator looks disturbed.
  • Animal Motifs: Moths, who cluster in Ernessa's room trying to get to the moon. The narrator also reminisces about one evening with her father:
    "One night, in a tangle of wild honeysuckle that grew over the fence and buried us in its scent, we saw a pale green moth with two long tails that fluttered like ribbons in a little girl's hair. The luna moth was as large as a bird. The yellow eyes on its wings gleamed in the light . . . Finally, we went to bed, but I couldn't sleep. I listened to the whirring wings and insect bodies banging against the screen. Every sound outside was the green luna, trying to get into my room to show itself to me one more time."
  • Beauty Is Bad: The narrator assumes that Lucy's angelic beauty is what attracted Ernessa to her and led to her death.
  • Birds of a Feather: In the beginning of the story, the narrator considers herself and Lucy to be this. By the end of it, Lucy seems to have outgrown the narrator and their once close friendship cools off considerably.
  • Bungled Suicide: Ernessa, in a way.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: Ernessa is absolutely terrible at swimming, and the narrator describes her as struggling a great deal to keep her head above water. Her swimming session with Miss Bobbie is described as something akin to torture, even through the unsympathetic eyes of the narrator. If we believe that Ernessa is a vampire, it makes sense. It would also explain why she could have a reason to kill Miss Bobbie.
  • Chalk Outline: In blood after Dora's death.
  • Cherry Blossoms
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: The narrator. She is very possessive of Lucy and deeply resents Ernessa for taking Lucy away from her.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Twice, in passing.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Or was she?
  • Cultured Badass: Ernessa, Dora and the narrator.
  • Daddy's Girl: Lucy, with the added hints of abuse (with sinister implications, her father won't let her cut her long blonde hair), and the narrator.
  • Damaged Soul: Ernessa and the narrator's father in her dreams.
  • Daylight Horror: Lucy's body being found at dawn.
  • Daywalking Vampire: The narrator believes Ernessa to be this.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: The author believes Ernessa to be a life-sucking vampire who poses as a student in a girls' boarding school in order to find and remain close to her prey.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?:
    "My father died too. Has everybody forgotten that?" I shouted."
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: We never find out what exactly killed Lucy, which helps her death remain ambiguous - was it a real illness or was she killed by a vampire?
  • Dissonant Serenity: Ernessa and the narrator.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!
  • Dream Within a Dream: Several times, often simultaneously occurring with sleep paralysis-induced hallucinations.
  • The Drifter: Ernessa is implied to be this. Her travel trunk is full of stickers, some new and some faded, from all the places she visited. The narrator sees her as someone who drifts from place to place in search of someone who can alleviate her loneliness.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ernessa may or may not have committed suicide by slitting her wrists after her father's death (also a possible suicide), which act could have made her a vampire - if she was one, considering the Unreliable Narrator. The narrator states this in one of the very last entries in her journal before she tries to burn down her school, Through the Eyes of Madness. The narrator also contemplates this act, but doesn't go through with it. Her father did this, too, opening the possibility that the narrator was imprinting her past onto Ernessa, and fantasising about ending her life in the same way.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: Lucy, and the mentioned-in-passing character The Zombie.
  • Dying Alone: Averted; the narrator's father is described as saving "one last breath" for her, but her cat deliberately tries to avoid company as it is dying.
  • Dying as Yourself: The narrator's father.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: A couple of times.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Ernessa.
  • Emotionless Girl: Ernessa, who almost never displays any emotions, even when alone, and barely has vocal inflection. Oddly enough, she only gets angry when she's in Lucy's room with several other girls and she hears a girl pee with the door open.
  • Empathic Environment: The seasonal changes.
  • Empty Shell: Portrayed realistically as a result of grief and depression.
  • Erotic Dream: The narrator has one while waiting for a friend to come back from her first sexual encounter. Depending on whether you see that as a dream or not, she has another one in which she sees Ernessa and Lucy in bed together.
  • Evil Eyebrows: Ernessa has a unibrow, and is the closest thing to a villain in the book.
  • Extreme Doormat: Lucy is implied to be one.
  • Five Stages of Grief: The narrator, in the entries reflecting on her father's suicide and Dora's death.
  • Flower Motif: Blossom.
  • Friendless Background: The narrator is never mentioned as having friends before she came to the Residence.
    "I had to learn how to have friends. To be normal."
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Lucy, who even after her return from the hospital and the brink of death talks about her new ones all the time; partially lampshaded when the narrator comments on how Lucy seems to have not changed at all from her experience.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: The narrator's diary entries are noticeably more distressed and insane in periods of isolation from her fellow pupils. The expulsion of Charley and the death of Dora, the only two other students who also thought Ernessa strange, causes the narrator to become even more fixated on the idea of her being a vampire while shutting out the other students.
  • Gossipy Hens: Most of the girls.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop
    Ernessa's old, old. Her life repeats itself like Lucy's horrible record, skipping over and over, always at the same spot. The moon shadow. She's waiting for my life to become stuck like that.
  • Growing Up Sucks: For Sofia physically, who suffers from extremely heavy periods, and for a good deal of the other characters emotionally, including the narrator in her wish to return to her childhood before her father's suicide.
    • Averted, however, where a younger narrator compares her body to that of her fellow students in the changing rooms.
    "In ninth grade, when I had to change with older girls for swimming, I couldn't help staring at them. My eyes were always drawn to that dark curly patch of hair between their legs, above the soft flesh of the thighs. On a little girl's body, the smooth fold of skin is no different from an eyelid. It's the hair that transforms it. The coarse hair hides the entrance to a secret place. My breasts were pathetic little mounds, and some of these girls had big round breasts with huge nipples that were pink and purple and brown. They had the bodies of women. They would catch me looking and accuse me of staring at them. Then everyone would look in my direction and see my puny body."
  • Hair Contrast Couple: Ernessa and Lucy.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: The narrator's mother, who (for bonus points!) is also an artist.
  • Hates Being Touched: Ernessa, though her aloofness makes it so that nobody except Lucy really gets close to her anyway. The one time the narrator grabs her arm, Ernessa pushes her away so hard she hits a wall.
  • Hates Small Talk: Both Ernessa and the narrator.
  • Haunted Heroine: This is what the narrator sees herself as.
  • Hope Spot: Lucy seems to get better at one point in the story, and the narrator is deeply relieved. She credits this to certain things she did which she believes caused Ernessa to stay away. Unfortunately, it doesn't last.
  • Heroic BSoD
  • Hidden Disdain Reveal: While she genuinely likes Lucy, the narrator is at times critical of her lesser intellect and her ordinary teenage-girl interests and that of the other girls. Most of this is kept to an internal monologue. Lucy, after distancing herself from the narrator, eventually openly says that she doesn't want her company anymore.
    “Leave me alone, please,” said Lucy. “I can’t stand having you around me all the time, wanting me only for yourself. You are a fucking drag. You pull me down. All that pain.”
  • Horror Hunger: The narrator theorises.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Even after all her preparation for Lucy's death.
  • Ice Queen: Ernessa, who only defrosts so the narrator can witness her practical immortality and ancient wisdom and talk to her.
  • I Hate You, Vampire Dad
  • The Ingenue: The narrator's interpretation of Lucy and perhaps even the major theme of Lucy's personality.
  • Inhuman Human: Possibly.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: The narrator, after the respective death and expulsion of Dora and Charley.
  • In the End, You Are on Your Own
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy
  • Jerkass: Dora.
  • Karma Houdini: Ernessa. Although it is implied that she leaves the school after having her trunk burned by the narrator, she does not get any retribution for all the murders she is supposedly responsible for. And the narrator seems to believe that Ernessa got to keep Lucy as her companion.
  • Kick the Dog: When Pater, the small dog whose only crime is a rather annoying yapping, is presumably killed by Ernessa, the narrator practically quotes this trope summary.
  • Lesbian Jock: Assumed by Charley about Miss Bobbie.
  • Lesbian Vampire: Ernessa seduces Lucy and in the film is seen biting her while they are naked and in bed together.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Possibly Lucy and Ernessa.
  • Loners Are Freaks: The narrator fought hard to get rid of this label once she got to the Residence. Ernessa doesn't seem to care about the label at all, but if the narrator is to be trusted, she is (at best) very peculiar.
  • Luminescent Blush: In the restaurant scene.
  • Macabre Moth Motif: Moths represent Ernessa. They float around in her room.
  • Mind Manipulation: What the narrator believes Ernessa is capable of, at least in regards to Lucy. It's ambiguous if that is true or not, since it's very possible that Lucy outgrew the narrator and was drawn to the quiet, interesting and intelligent Ernessa more.
  • Mind Screw: Everywhere.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: There is such a thing as vampire moths but they're only found in Malaysia.
  • Mood-Swinger
  • More than Mind Control: How vampires are described as getting close to their victims in one of the narrator's father's books. Exemplified in her interpretation of Lucy and Ernessa's relationship.
    • Alternatively, one might be able to see it between her and Mr. Davies.
  • Motor Mouth: Charley.
  • Mysterious Past: Very little is known about Ernessa Bloch. Her trunk is full of stickers (some old and faded) from places that she visited, she knowns at least two foreign languages, is very intelligent and well read, plays the piano beautifully and somehow manages to bend the rules wherever she goes, leading the narrator to theorize that her parents are rich.
  • Nice Girl: Sofia is the nicest of the boarders and the only one who still expresses concern after Lucy's death. The narrator never has anything bad to say about her.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Dora, to the extent that she writes a novel based on a fictional dialogue between the man himself and Brahms.
  • No Name Given: The narrator is unnamed in the book, but in the movie she is named Rebecca.
  • Not Afraid to Die: By the end of the book.
  • Omniglot: Ernessa read Proust in French and the narrator overheard her using a language that she did not recognize.
  • One-Gender School: The book and movie are set in an all-girls boarding school.
  • The Ophelia:
    "I was thinking about hair streaming out in the water like golden seaweed. The drowning Ophelia, with hard pink breasts."
  • Opposites Attract: Ernessa and Lucy.
  • Parental Substitute: Mr. Davies.
  • Personal Horror
  • Psycho Lesbian: Possibly?
  • Psychological Horror: THE WHOLE BOOK.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mrs. Halton.
    "It's too late to see Lucy, ever. I don't think I can cry anymore. There are no tears left. When Mrs. Halton came out to check on us at quiet hour, I was waiting for her outside her sitting room. At first she tried to deny that anyone had been allowed to see Lucy, but when I said that I knew Ernessa had been to the hospital, she admitted that Ernessa had visited, but only twice, and very briefly each time. "Lucy asked for her." She said it in a very mean way. She knew she was hurting my feelings. When I insisted that she allow me to see Lucy, she said, "If we must continue this conversation, come into my room.""
  • Sanity Slippage: The narrator becomes increasingly unstable as the novel and film progress.
  • Shadow Archetype: Ernessa and the narrator, or more popularly Ernessa and Lucy.
  • Shout-Out: The narrator reads a passage from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, the ur-vampire story written even before Dracula. In it, the orphaned narrator finds herself living together with a lovely, dark-haired girl by the name of Carmilla. She is drawn to Carmilla's beauty, wit and personality but unbeknownst to her, Carmilla is a vampire who slowly drains her to death. The character of Ernessa is clearly inspired by Carmilla.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Lucy, who seems to vary from day to day, although the narrator is convinced that there is a concrete reason.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Lucy.
  • Super Strength: Ernessa picks up a heavy wardrobe and moves it with unsettling ease.
  • Survivor Guilt: The narrator experiences this after both her father's suicide and Lucy's death.
  • Teacher's Pet: The narrator is Mr. Davies's, and she believes that Ernessa is threatening her similar relationship with Mrs. Norris.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Everyone thinks it's there, but it's barely noticeable until near the end of the book.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl
  • Unreliable Narrator: A few times it's unclear if things really happened the way the narrator says they did. Other times her impressions of other people are coloured by her opinions of them, such as her resentment towards some of the teachers and her jealousy of Ernessa and Lucy's growing intimacy.
  • Victim of the Week: This is practically literal by the time the book ends.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Lucy?
  • Weather Dissonance
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Ernessa is seen by the narrator as a lonely vampire looking for a companion... who will kill anyone who annoys or disturbs her.
  • Yandere
  • You Are What You Hate