Essay: “The False Moon” by Shirley Golden

Isn’t life in general just a lot of choices pieced together? Every choice we make can have an influence on our lives later on. Especially when growing up it can be difficult to know if you’re making the right decisions and know in what direction you should go and what way to choose. Therefore it can be necessary to have a guide in who you can trust. Especially guidelines and trustworthy tips are the main themes of the short story “The False Moon” by Shirley Golden. There is a 1st person narrator who is also the main character of the story. His name is Matt and he lives alone with his mom. The text doesn’t say how old he is, but we know that he still should be in school, and considering his actions he is probably a teenager. He almost never go to school, and when he does it is only to sign in before he leaves for another place. He doesn’t show a letter from the school to his mom because he won’t appear as a boy whose mother doesn’t care a bit in front of the other students. “I didn’t trust words, and that excluded me from most subjects; and I struggled with numbers, which barred me from the rest. But lines were reliable. I’d always liked lines.”1 He doesn’t see the point in going to school when he doesn’t feel like he belongs there. He is probably also jealous of his classmates because they complain about their parents worrying too much. He likes to sneak out in the middle of the night while his mother is asleep. He doesn’t really have a purpose out there, he just wanders around, and one night he finds a new project where he can actually show what he is good at. – Painting. Matt has a difficult relationship with his mother. She doesn’t seem to care about him, and some days they don’t even see each other. The sketch for Matt’s latest project shows “a child trapped inside a broken bottle. There’s a woman in the background, her head is turned; she’s watching the shadow of a man in the distance.”2 This is probably a symbol of their relationship. He is trapped inside a bottle ready to drift away, while she is standing in background and hardly notices him disappearing because she is too focused on her own life and an unimportant stranger who only appears as a shadow to Matt. This man would be the mother’s boyfriend Dan, and that’s also why she ends her relationship with him after finding Matt’s sketch. Throughout the whole story there is a symbol regarding insects and their way of navigating. “Once, not so long ago, she told me insects were attracted to the light because they navigate using the moon. The street lamps were their “false moons”, she said.3 The streetlights can misguide the insects into swarm around the same light bulb for hours and hours. The mother could be Matt’s “false moon” and lead him in the wrong direction by keeping him where he is and not change anything in their lives and their relationship. Also Matt’s accomplice is described as an insect. “She moves like a spider, weaving a web of colour and bringing my insides to life.” In interpretation of dreams spiders are often a symbol of an unsolved conflict with your mother and the spider tries to tell you that you should free yourself from your mother’s “web”. In this way the girl in the tunnel helps Matt release himself from the habits and bad relationship with his mom. Honestly we don’t know if the mother really is going to change, but at least Matt has realized that he has to break free in order to make choices that are really his own. “How is navigation possible at such a time as this? I’ve fallen in a void with no points of steering. I’m an explorer, alone, on the brink of new worlds. And no matter if the signs are false. No matter if the guide is wrong. I’ll choose my own route, find my own path; even in the dark.”4 Matt doesn’t need a “moon” anymore. He has exceeded the intelligence of the insects swarming around a light bulb in the dark night, and knows now that he has a built-in navigator – his gut feeling. In the end he has acknowledged that he has to make his own choices, and that the only person he can really rely on is himself