In Slave Moth (2004), Thylias Moss emphasizes the way Varl Perry, her young female protagonist, uses writing to develop a new identity as a free person. As the author and narrator of her own story, Varl reacts to her master’s use of scientific discourse (including such key words as experiment and deformity) to characterize and control her (this echoes Schoolteacher’s humiliating taxonomy in Toni Morrison’s Beloved). Although Varl’s literacy is an effect of her master’s “experimentation,” she uses this skill to imagine and frame her self-transformation from being someone else’s creature to becoming her own woman. Slave Moth emphasizes the positive cognitive impact of writing when Varl starts to record her thoughts by embroidering them into a series of petticoats she wears. She materially and conceptually inhabits her writing. As her petticoat-diary grows, she increasingly associates it with the cocoon of the luna moth she reads about in her master’s open book.
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