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Russel starts out this story in a very dull and monotone way. Her first sentence is a suggestion of excitement, but she quickly negates it with “but of course there is no way for anyone to verify that now.” She then goes on to write a long list of the characteristics that all of the worker women share. This tone sets up an intriguing contrast with the outlandish happenings of the actual story and allows the reader to suspend disbelief. There is no feeling of silliness that goes along with reading about a group of women who have turned into silk worms because we are made to understand early on that there is absolutely nothing exciting and joyful about it.

Through the story of Kitsune’s eagerness to impress the man who got her in the terrible situation she is now in against her better judgement, Russell opens the story up to more interpretation than a simple story about women being victimized by a terrible man and having to make the most out of a situation which they are stuck in. The focus on daydreaming and comradery initially seems to push the story in that direction, and right up until Kitsune’s sudden turn to tenacity the story feels safe even despite the fact that these are “silkworm-women” and it feels as if it could easily end with Dai’s death as the final proof that these women must simply learn to live with what they have. Once the reader hears those fateful words, “if the caterpillars are allowed to evolve, they turn into moths. They grow wings and teeth,” the reader is shocked and excited, not having seen any way out and having been lulled into just as much of a dull and somewhat indifferent acceptance as the kaiko-joko (she does this by using monotonous language, describing the glimpses of pride that Kitsune occasionally feels for being the only group of people able to spin so much silk, the idea that important people are wearing it, and the sense of individuality that they get from having distinct colors).

The question of how far willpower can take a person is posed, tested, and ultimately triumphs. The wings, however, never actually grow during the story, and the ending focuses more on revenge than the gaining of freedom. To me, the choice of ending the story with the Agent’s death was disappointing and brought an abrupt halt to the triumphant feeling that Russell had evoked through the rapid change of tone from the monotonous plodding of a group of defeated women to the rush of a revolution. The ending gave me a sense that the writer was keeping a secret from her readers, that maybe they never did get their wings, or maybe they got them but were never able to escape the room, starving to death, or once out they were just as miserable being trapped in their moth bodies as they had been trapped in the room. If the writer was trying to give us a clue as to what happens next and not simply leaving us in the dark, I can only guess that by leaving us with the image of Kitsune’s moth-face reflected in the eyes of her dying victim, Russel is suggesting that the women are losing their humanity and by incasing themselves in thread created by their own bitterness and regret, they will ultimately emerge as complete monsters. This is, again, a very abrupt change in what had seemed to be the direction of the story and is both frustrating and intriguing.

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