The central theme of the short story “The Fly’ is the agony of a bereaved father whose only son had been snatched away by the world-war. The Boss in the story is the unfortunate father. He is the central character, the pivot and the revelation of his bereaved heart is the main focus of attention. His outward life of glitter and happiness has been drawn with as much care and attention as void of his soul. The story gives us glimpses into the two aspects of his life : The earlier part shows how successfully he keeps up his appearance before others. The later part shows how pathetic in his life in moments exclusively private.
“The Fly” as a short story differs from the traditional ones in its mechanics of presentation. Here we do not find any character- development in the conventional sense. The author is primarily concerned with offering an insight into the soul of the Boss relying mainly on atmosphere and suggestiveness. The method adopted for guiding the reader and intimate into the inner recesses of the Boss’s soul is the “stream of consciousness” technique. The authoress places her sensitive finger on a significant moment of the Boss’s and makes his lay bare to the reader through a kind of metal soliloquy-- the inner working of his soul.
The Boss receives in his gorgeous office chamber, his one time colleague Mr. Woodifield who though younger than him has now retired from the service and became “a frail old figure in the muffler”. The boss who is still going strong pities Mr. Woodifield and serves him wine. Mr. Woodifield in course of his conversation refers to the visits of his daughters to Belgium where they had come across the grave of the Boss’s son. The Boss’s memory is stirred in grief for his only son killed in battle six years ago. After Woodifield’s departure from the office the Boss is exclusively left to himself to ruminate the memory of the dead son. He feels very helpless and destitute. He wants to get relief by shedding tears. He utters again and again “My son, my son” but tears do not roll down his eyes. In vain, he tries to vent his pent-up feelings. Just at this moment in a flash-back his mind goes to those days when the boy under his able guidance and paternal care was shaping very well as the prospective manger of the form. But all his hopes had been nipped in the bud when the news of the boy’s death reached him like a blot from the blue.
Thus, when the Boss is completely over whelmed with sad memories, he is seized by a mood of torturous self-introspection, he happens to find a fly in his ink-pot. He brings it out on to a piece of blotting paper lets drop on it blots of ink from his pen repeatedly to watch its successive efforts to cleanse itself and come-back to life until it dies in the process. The moment it is dead the Boss is all at once, jerked into an awareness of the reality and he becomes frightened and repentant.
The Boss, however, has not killed the fly for any sadistic pleasure. The fact is, in an unfathomable depressed state of mind he has only wanted to witness again and again the most encouraging spectacle of the little creature waging a relentless war against it. However, the Boss while sporting with the fly becomes instrumental in causing its death. Fate kills human beings for its sport. The role of the Boss is not much different from that of the Fate which had snatched away his only son.
So, Katherine Mansfield’s method of presentation of the Boss is a complete one.