A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow


Amor Towles

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The Moths of Manchester Symbol Analysis

The Moths of Manchester Symbol Icon

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 A Gentleman in Moscow quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Moths of Manchester. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of A Gentleman in Moscow published in 2016.
Book 4, 1950, Adagio, Andante, Allegro Quotes

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.

Related Characters: The Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov
Related Symbols: The Moths of Manchester
Page Number: 336
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Moths of Manchester Symbol Timeline in A Gentleman in Moscow

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Moths of Manchester appears in A Gentleman in Moscow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 4, 1950, Adagio, Andante, Allegro
Change and Adaptation Theme Icon
...meet or “meet one’s end.” Audrius’s statement launches the Count into a story about the moths of Manchester, a story that his father enjoyed telling him as a child. But just... (full context)
Change and Adaptation Theme Icon
The narrator explains the moths of Manchester, an example of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. As a boy, the Count... (full context)
Change and Adaptation Theme Icon
The Count’s father had pointed to the moths of Manchester, most of which for thousands of years had white wings and black flecking... (full context)
Change and Adaptation Theme Icon
...he realizes he had been looking at the matter wrong. Though the color of the moth’s wings had changed, the moth species still persisted as a whole. The Count sees Stepanovich,... (full context)