Short Story Analysis: “The Fly” by Katherine Mansfield
The story ends without really resolving anything; there is no sense of closure at the end. At the end of the story after the boss has killed the fly, he forgets what he had been previously thinking about. He forgets about how grievous he was over his son he lost in the war just a few moments before he began to torment the fly. The fact that he forgets about his son indicates to the reader that perhaps he wasn’t as overcome with grief as he lead on to be. The fact that “for the life of him he could not remember”, also leaves the reader wondering what will happen to him later; will he discover the sorrow he has over his lost son and perhaps meet the same ill ending as the fly? Or will he continue to be selfish and tormenting?
The boss, being the protagonist of this short story, is motivated by one thing only: his dead son. The boss decides to torment a helpless housefly in the latter half of the story because he sees the struggle the fly undergoes when it falls in his inkpot, and in turn feels the need to test the fly’s strength. In seeing the fly’s struggle and its ability to overcome it, the boss sees himself. He subconsciously wonders if he will be able to overcome the struggle he has with his feelings concerning the death of his son. In comparing his struggle to the fly’s, he feels the need to test the fly to its limits. He says, “Come on, look sharp” almost as if he is talking to himself.
I think it is very important for the audience to know that the story takes place during a war, and 6 years after the death of the boss’ son. This information is important to the because it gives a better understanding to the reader that the boss will have an internal struggle regarding the war and the death of his son. This setting also sets the tone for the story; it gives it a sense of melancholy, hopelessness, resentment, and anger.
This story is told in the 3rd person, but has a main focus on the boss. The narrator is not omniscient because the reader only knows what the boss is thinking and does not know what the old man is thinking.
The author uses the metaphor of a fly to represent the memories and struggle of the boss. This metaphor is used to extend meaning through the entire story and to help enhance the motivations and thoughts of the boss. By comparing the struggles of the fly to the struggles of the boss and the death of the fly to the death of the boss’ memories, the reader can more clearly understand how the death of his son in the war has affected the boss. I think this metaphor is a good comparison because it makes the reader think about what it means; as I find it can have various meanings, and it enhances the overall quality of the story.
There are many specific sentences, words, and phrases in the story to help understand the personality of the boss. The fact the boss “was proud of his room; he liked to have it admired, especially by the old Woodifield.” shows the reader that he feels a need to be looked upon and is quite arrogant in that sense. After Woodifield leaves, the boss says ” ‘My son!’ But no tears came yet’ ” causes the reader to question whether or not he is grievous over his son anymore. Finally, the repeating phrase, “Look sharp!”, indicates to the reader that the boss has a high expectation for people (and flies apparently), and hints that perhaps he had high expectations for his son to return home from the war and take over the family business.
I think this story reflects the sadness and cruel nature of war. As I said previously, the fly metaphor has many different meanings, one could compare the fly and its brutal torment to young soldiers in the war who have been innocently slaughtered by cruel forces over which they have no control. This story reflects effects of death as a result of war on the parent of a fallen soldier, and the internal struggles they must overcome to forget. It shows the reader not only the tragic effects of war on families, but also the violent effects which can occur.
I think this story was written as a peace and anti-war story in order to show people the personal effects which war and death have on the families of fallen soldiers. This story provides insight on the cruelty of war by showing the reader the cruelty of a human to a defenseless fly. By doing this, the author has made it clear to the reader their opinion on war, and I think has made a tremendous impact on how people will regard these grief-stricken families.