A Short Tabular Analysis of Katherine Mansfield's “The Fly”

                                

  The events of the story surround a boss who is reminded of his son's death during a visit from an old friend. The man then rescues and causes the death of a common housefly. The story's simple action, which is understated but offers a telling description of character and place, is marked by a lack of humor and compassion. The story also makes a fascinating study of a psychological crisis that afflicts a man almost completely lacking in self-awareness. The story also is a critique of war and patriarchy, as well as a metaphysical exploration of humans' place in the world. It is further one of the starkest expressions of post-World War I existential helplessness and despair.


Woodifield, an old and infirm man, who is only allowed to leave his house on Tuesdays. He lives with his wife and daughter.




The boss, a well-off friend of his, who has lost a son to World War I. Much attention has been paid to the central character of the boss. He has been seen as a symbol of malignant forces that are base and motiveless, a representative of the generation that sent its sons to their slaughter in a cruel war, and a god-like figure who, in the words of King Lear, toys with the lives of human beings for sport.  He is a bully who torments the fly for boyish pleasure, and his sense of loss is no more than self-pity. However, some commentators claim that the boss should not be viewed as an unsympathetic character, but simply as a man whose experiments on a common housefly are manifestations of an unconscious metaphysical questioning about the meaning of life.

Macey, the boss's servant.  


 “The Fly” has spawned a variety of interpretations. It is frequently seen as an indictment of the brutal horror of World War I, along with the hopelessness and despair left in its wake.

   Some critics have pointed to references Mansfield made in her journals and letters about flies to show that the fly represents herself, struggling to fight the ravages of her tuberculosis, only to be crushed in the end by a selfish and cruel father much like the boss in her story.
 
Other critics have resisted such autobiographical interpretations, insisting they detract from a more universally compelling existential message concerning the inevitability of death and man's unwillingness to accept this truth.

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