The story of the moths of Manchester is a favorite of the Count’s, and these moths are symbols of the ability to adapt to one’s circumstances. The narrator explains that the moths of Manchester are an example of speedy evolution: in Manchester, for thousands of years, most of the moths had white wings and black flecking (though a few in each generation would have pitch black wings). The lighter coloring provided them with camouflage against the region’s trees. But when Manchester became littered with factories, the barks of the trees became covered in soot, and the moths with pitch black wings were camouflaged much better. Within a hundred years, over 90% of the moths had black wings. This progress parallels the adjustments of certain members of society that the Count points out: an architect who uses his art skills to sketch buildings for a travel agency; Stepanovich, who conducts the band in the Piazza in order to make ends meet even though he is a classically trained musician. The Count and Anna are also examples of “moths,” as they are able to use skills and traits they had already had in order to adapt to the new Russian society. The Count uses his knowledge of seating arrangements, wine, and etiquette to become a waiter in the Boyarksy, while Anna plays into her rough voice and hardworking ethic to restart her career when she moves past being an ingenue.
The Moths of Manchester Quotes in A Gentleman in Moscow
The pace of evolution was not something to be frightened by. For while nature doesn't have a stake in whether the wings of a peppered moth are black or white, it genuinely hopes that the peppered moth will persist.