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Encyclopedia > The Fly (short story)

The Fly, a short story witten by Katherine Mansfield in February 1922, was later included in The Garden Party and Other Stories. It has often been called an 'open ended story' but notwithstanding the various points of view regarding its interpretation, critics are unanimous about the fact that as a short story it is outstanding. Katherine Beauchamp Mansfield (born October 14, 1888 in New Zealand; died January 9, 1923) was a famous author. ... 1922 (MCMXXII) was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ...


Woodifield, an old and infirm gentleman is shown talking to the boss, his friend, who is five years older than he is and 'still going strong'. It is obvious that the boss enjoys showing off his redecorated office to Woodifield and feels a certain satisfaction to be 'planted' there in full view of the frail old figure in a muffler. Woodifield wants to tell the boss something, but cannot remember what it was, when the boss offers him some whisky. After drinking, his memory is refreshed and Woodifield talks about his visit to their sons' graves. We now come to know that both their sons had died in the war. After Woodifield leaves, the boss sits down at his table, calls the office boy and tells him that he did not want to be disturbed. It is apparent from the narrative that he is extremely perturbed at the sudden reference to his dead son. Now we find something very curious: the narrative tells us that the boss 'arranges' to cry. He fails, however, and is even more puzzled because previously he had only to say the words "my son" to be overcome by tears. He looks at his son's photo, and then notices a fly that was struggling to get out of his inkpot. The boss helps it out of the inkpot and observes how it dries itself, with some amount of admiration. Just when the fly is dry and safe, the boss has an idea and starts playing with the fly by dropping ink on it. The story ends in an unexpected way which has led to critics interpreting it in many different ways. BOSS is a division of the Roland Corporation that specializes in manufacturing musical equipment and accessories. ... A Scarf joint is a means of joining usually wood, sometimes metal, end to end. ... Scotch whisky Whisky (or whiskey) (from Irish uisce beatha and/or Scottish Gaelic uisge baugh, both meaning water of life, and ultimately a calque derived from Latin Aqua Vitae (see below)) is an alcoholic beverage distilled from grain, often including malt, which has then been aged in wooden barrels. ... Combatants Allies: Serbia, Russia, France, Romania, Belgium, British Empire, United States, Italy, and others Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Ottoman Empire Casualties Military dead:5 million Civilian dead:3 million Total dead:8 million Military dead:4 million Civilian dead:3 million Total dead:7 million The First World... A photograph (often just called a photo) is an image (or a representation of that on e. ... The Mediterranean fruit fly, or medfly, Ceratitis capitata Dance fly male Empis tesselata The flesh-fly, Sarcophaga carnaria As defined by entomologists, a fly (plural flies) is any species of insect of the order Diptera. ... An ink is a liquid containing various pigments and/or dyes used for colouring a surface to render an image or text. ...


This story has been interpreted variously: that the boss plays the role of fate over the fly, that the fly represents the boss under blows of fate and so on. However, no critic seems to be able to explain satisfactorily the significance of the 'fly episode' as it has been dubbed. Destiny or fate refers to the inevitable course of events. ...

Incidentally, Mansfield's own very dear brother had died in the war too, before this story was written, and the author's personal writings reflect that she had felt nothing could ever be the same again. What relevance, if any, this could bear to 'The Fly' is an open question.

The main motif or question concerning 'The Fly' is the idea that time can overcome all grief. This theme is presented when the boss is quoted as- (Quote) "He wasn't feeling as he wanted to feel"

External links

  • Text of The Fly

  Results from FactBites:
THE FLY (Review) (1476 words)
In the story, a man known only as the boss is the central character, and his relationships form the main part of the story’s focus.
He attributes many human attributes to the fly during this process and seems to superficially admire it greatly before he loads up his pen and drops a drip of ink onto the fly again.
The story is quite short and is told from the perspective of an omniscient narrator.
  More results at FactBites »



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