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Mansfield's Short Story "The Fly"

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 4 (958 words)
Categories: Consciousness, History, Literature, Psychology, Short Story, War, World War I, World War Ii
Downloads: 1
Views: 10

The Fly is an anecdote penned by Kathleen Mansfield Murry who wrote under the pen name Katherine, a prominent modernist writer and poet from New Zealand. She belonged to the modern period which emerged in European and North American sub continets and spannned from 1914 to 1945. The writers in this period made a conscious effort to break away from traditional patterns of writing and realism was the key idea. They moved away from romantic ideals, first person narration and stream of consciousness and tried to portray the harsh realities of the world after world war 1.

They were very cynical and saw the world as broken. The consequences of the world war 1 is one of the main topics of the modernist writing. The subgenres of this period are imaginism, symbolism, vorticism, expressionism, futurism, surrealism, acmeist and poetry.

Death is an inevitable reality of life and humankind will always be a victim of this tragic event. Mansfield’s short story “The Fly” focuses on the emotional turmoil and pain that an individual has to go through due to the death of a loved one.

The story is told through the eyes of the boss, the unnamed protagonist who is defined by his actions rather than a name. The Boss is intrdouced to the readers through a conversation between him and his friend Mr. Woodifield, who is presented as someone old, retired, physically weak, dependent on his family and not financially well off. In contrast to this, the boss is described as stout, rosy, healthy and five years older than Woodifield. He appears to be a man of action who has aged well and still controls the affairs goings around him. He commands the respect of those around him including Woodifield and his clerk Macy. As the story unfolds, the readers become aware of the fact that boss is a power hungry indidvidual who likes to assert his superiority. While talking to Woodifield, he points out the changes in his office that symbolise power and luxury such as the massive book case, bright red carpet, tables with legs twisted like a treacle and also boasts of rare food items that he posses. He is also portrayed as a hyper masculine cause he refrains himself from showing any sentiments regarding his son throughout the story, offering no details about him except for his death at war and him being the successor to the business empire. Furthermore, since he controls all the reminders of his son, he was shocked at the mention of his son’s grave by Mr.Woodifield. As a result, he demands complete privacy for half an hour and closes the windows curatains so that he could weep but fails to do so. All these instances portray the boss as someone who was a victim of toxic masculinity. However, the author tries to show the readers an ouce of compassion in the boss when he tries to weep for his son aThrough the climax of the story, Mansfield gives an insight to the mind of the boss to the readers. The boss’s initial desire to torture the fly and immediately relieve it of its misery can be seen as a conflict the boss is facing within himself. He wanted to torture the fly because his son was also tortured. thus following this line of logic, the boss might have wanted to save the fly so that he could control at least one destiny. However, the pain of his son’s death and his ingrained feeling of superiority didn’t allow him to provide any privilege or show mercy to the fly as his son didn’t receive it. What seems cruelty on his part can be seen as result of his failure to come to terms with his son’s death and stabilize his mind about suffering, destiny and death. The killing of the fly can also be seen as the boss’s way of neglecting the possibilities and promises of a new life.

This discomforting tale has been the subject of considerable, often heated critical debate and there is little consensus on the either side of the story’s meaning or literary merit. The Boss is reminded of his son’s death during a visit from his friend Woodifield and this reminder results in the torture, rescue and death of the fly. This simple action of the story gives the reader a description about the character and the place. The story lacks any humour or compassion and is a fascinating study of a psychological crisis that affects an individual completely lacking self awareness. The story focuses on the internal crisis of the character rather than external crisis of the plot. The author uses symbolism and images to portray the complexity of her characters. For instace, it is the reader and not the protagonist who is able to see symbolic significance of the fly. The boss feels sorry for himself as he has lost a son for whom he was shaping a life but he does not admit any feelings to anyone. However, the boss’s desire to torture the fly by putting ink on it and yet wanting to save it gives the readers an idea about his internal struggle. The story is also a critique of war and patriarchy as well as explores place of humans in the world. Mansfield wrote this story in her final months after the death of her brother Louis in world war 1. This story is often interpreted as her statement on how she viewed herself as a helpless victim of dark and unknown forces in her last few months. The Fly is considered to be the most haunting corruption in Mansfield’s literature as well as one of the darkest expessions of the post world war war existencial crisis and helplessness.

Cite this essay

Mansfield’s Short Story “The Fly”. (2019, Dec 04). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/mansfields-short-story-the-fly-essay

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