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The Fly - Katherine Mansfield

short story seminar pres
by

Ugyen Dorji

on 6 November 2013

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Transcript of The Fly - Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield
The Fly
It is set inside the boss' upscale office in a cold winter time after World War I on a Tuesday.
Approximately six years after the battle of Ypres or Passchendaele
SETTING
THEME
Man Vs. Self
CONFLICT
The boss, who is seen as a stout, rosy and strong man for his age, was visited by his friend Mr. Woodifield.
Woodifield then struggles to remember what he wanted to say, so the boss offered him some whisky to refresh his memory.
Mr. Woodifield remembered where his memory trailed off and brings up his daughters’ trip to Belgium to visit their brothers grave, who was killed during the war.
He also mentioned about the boss’ son who had also died six years ago.
The boss is seen as upset and distracted as Woodifield gives him the details.
When Mr. Woodfield left it was evident that the sudden mention of the boss’ son affected him deeply.
The boss tried to cry about his tragic loss but failed to do so.
He “arranged to weep” but his attention shifted when he noticed a fly stuck in an ink pot struggling to get out and so he assisted the fly out of the ink pot and watched it clean itself from the ink.
He then had an idea of tormenting it by continuously dropping more ink on the fly while admiring its courage until it died.
He casually threw the fly’s body into a waste basket and an abrupt feeling of wretchedness frightened him, then he asked for a new blotting paper from his assistant, Macey.
He tried to remember what he had been thinking before but could not seem to revive his memory.
PLOT
Mr. Woodifield:
an old and weak man and is now dominated by his wife and daughter. He lost his son Reggie in the war
No control of himself:
1.
never allowed to go out any other day of the week except Tuesdays and
2
. cannot dress himself up alone

The Boss:
an affluent friend of Mr. Woodifield who has also lost his son in the war
*He is described as a stout, rosy and strong man for his age
*He needs admiration of the things he had established perhaps to fill in the voids when his son died
- he likes to showcase his room and have it admired

Macey:
the office clerk
She is described as greying

Gertrude:
Mr. Woodifield’s daughter
CHARACTERS
Time heals all wounds.
The boss believed that time would not make any difference to his grief but his present state is now different.
After Mr. Woodifield left, the boss sat in his chair and wanted to feel the same grief that he used to feel: “He wanted, he intended, he arranged to weep…” but failed to feel the same grief.
As a last attempt, he decided to get up and have a look at his son’s photograph.
Instead, a fly in the ink pot attracted his attention and forgot about his son and the grief in a moment.
He started dropping drops of ink on the fly to enjoy its struggle and admire it’s courage.
After the death of the fly, he tries to remember what he was thinking, but cannot.
He had also forgotten that he had “arranged to weep” for his son.
This shows that time has conquered his grief.
The fly died and so did his grief.
Time and Acceptance
Resentment and Inevitability of Death
He is angry at the fly because the fly cannot stand up to the challenges it is facing, and dies.
Likewise, he is angry at his son because his son did not stand up to the challenges, both the war and his expectations and dies.
Everything that he worked hard for was for his son but everything went crashing down when his son died.
He resent him for dying because it reminded him that no one’s going to step on his shoes and carry on where he left off.
He felt a “real admiration for the fly’s courage” like his admiration for his son as the story describes, “...the boss never thought of the boy except as lying unchanged, unblemished in his uniform, asleep forever”.
However, he felt resentment when the fly summoned to its death just like the resentment he felt for his son.
He wanted him to fight.
Perhaps, he even helped him to survive just like how he helped the fly: “And he actually had the brilliant notion of breathing on it to help the drying process”.
But no matter, what the boss did, death was inevitable.
As one survive a challenge(inkblot) another will come thus leading to death
but like any other grieving process, there will always be acceptance
the story explores the internal conflict of the boss as he tried to:
1. accept his son's death at first;
2. and when he moved on but does not accept the the fact that he lost the pang of grief he used to feel before as time healed him
Fly
: the boss’ son

Boss
: the boss himself

Inkblot
: challenges
MAJOR SYMBOLS
Fly:
the boss
The horror of the war and his son’s death voided his life but as the time passes by, the boss is healed as symbolized by the death of the fly

Boss:
the boss himself
He was inflicting his own pain for not moving on. But time healed all his wounds


Inkblot:
his son’s death
MAJOR SYMBOLS
Literary Conventions
ANECDOTE:
a short usually amusing account of an incident, especially a personal or biographical one

Example: Anecdote of the jam on pg.. 276

The purpose of the anecdote of the jam was to break the tension that is going on between the conversation of Mr. Woodifield and the boss after bringing up that the girls had visited their sibling's and the boss son's grave.
As soon as Woodifield felt the discomfort the boss is having, he immediately changed the subject to a far different one and came up with the experience that his daughters had in Belgium.
SIMILE:
referring to the practice of drawing parallels or comparisons between two unrelated and dissimilar things, people, beings, places and concepts using the words ‘as’ or ‘such as’ or ‘like’.

“...we cling to our last pleasures as the tree clings to its leaves.” ( 274)
This pertains to Mr. Woodifield's freedom and his once a week pleasure of going out on Tuesdays. He makes use of this by grooming himself and visiting his friends in town.
This quote may also mean as to how the boss hold on to the memories of the death of his son.

"It was exactly as though the earth had opened and he had seen the boy lying there with Woodifield's girls staring at him." (276)

After Woodifield told that his daughters visited both the grave of their sibling and also the boss's dead son, it gave the boss a feeling of the past haunting him again hence the opening of the ground.
He is uncomfortable about people seeing his son’s grave probably because he was not proud of his death even though he died noble.
OTHER SYMBOLS
FLY:
soldiers who fought in the world war not knowing what fate awaits them
BOSS:
military leaders who had no regards for the lives of the soldiers who fought in the war
INKBLOT:
infliction of the war

SOURCE:

Yeoh, T


Green leather chair:
green usually symbolizes money and wealth
AMBIGUITY:
"Openness to different interpretations: or an instance in which some use of language may be understood in diverse ways.
the story and the symbols can be interpreted in many ways
References
Mansfield, Katherine. "The Fly". Echoes 12. Canada: Oxford UP, 2002. 274-279. Print.

Yeoh, Tabitha. Tabitha Yeoh Blogspot. 2012. 25 Sept. 2012 <http://tabithayeoh.blogspot.ca/2012/03/katherine-mansfield-oral-presentation.html>. Web.

Kip Wheeler, L . Literary Vocabulary. Sept. 2012.
http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms.html>. Web.
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