Katherine Mansfield’s “The Fly” is a very brief and interesting short story. The fly episode has made this story so interesting. This episode is the foundation on which the superstructure of the story has been raised. The story is rightly named after the fly whose grim struggle for life and death constitute the episode. It helps to depict the character of the Boss. The episode is an eloquent commentary on Katherine Mansfield’s philosophy of life. It hints at the mystery of human life and gives a special dignity to the short story.
After a brief conversation with the Boss Mr. Woodifield left the office. He made some remarks on the grave of the Boss’s son in Belgium as seen by his daughters along with the grave of his son Reggie near it. He made the remarks casually. But the Boss was reminded of the pathetic death of his son in the First World War. After the departure of Mr. Woodifield the Boss make preparation for weeping. Just at that time he saw a fly trying desperately to come out of an ink pot into which it had fallen. The Boss helped the little creature to come out of the ink pot. When the fly regained its strength to move, the Boss had an idea. He plunged his pen into the ink and put a drop of ink on the body of the fly. The fly struggled hard to clean its wing and survived. In a playful mood the boss shook another drop of ink on the body of the poor creature. The fly struggled again to clean its wings, and he wanted to breath into its body to help the ink to dry. When the fly was struggling for survival, the Boss had the last blot fall on it. Then the poor creature died. After the death of the fly an unknown fear seized him.
The character of the Boss is a complex one. In order to throw light on the subconscious level of the Boss’s mind Katherine Mansfield has utilized this episode. The actual motive behind the Boss’s cruelty to the fly is almost unknown. Perhaps the Boss got relief by torturing the fly. He appeared as the agent of fate in the life of the poor creature and satisfied his spirit of revenge, but he got no relief. As the writer puts it ; “But such a grinding feeling of wretchedness seized him that he felt positively frightened.” Thus the fly episode indicates the mysterious nature of the Boss’s mind.
The fly episode expresses the authoress’s tragic view of life. Her ill health, her unhappy conjugal life, the death of her brother in the battlefield, the grief of her father caused by the untimely death of her brother-all those made Katherine Mansfield adopt a gloomy view of life. With the help of the fly episode the writer has created a tragic world. In this world man is helpless like a fly. Man struggles like the fly when he is placed in adverse circumstances. He tries his level best to come out victorious but to no effect. What ever is decreed will befall him.
“The Fly” was published in the year 1922 which saw the publication of Eliot’s “The waste land”. Life is the post-war period had lost all its charm and people became depressed at the thought of the horrors of war. The Fly episode has finely captured that mood of depression.
The present discussion clearly shows that the fly episode is the main attraction of Katherine Mansfield’s “The Fly”. It reveals the inner view of life. Indeed, the fly episode has raises this short story to the level of a great tragedy.