Short Story Analysis (Assignement #3) “The Fly”

  1. Story and Plot- Does the ending suggest that some sort of judgment or decision has been made?

In the end of the short story “The Fly”, the protagonist whom is often referred to as ‘the boss’ comes to a conclusion with feelings he has been carrying for years. The killing of the fly signifies the deletion of the overwhelming sadness that the boss held from grieving over his son’s death 6 years earlier. The boss discovers the struggling fly whilst thinking about his son and attempting to gain a proper grieving display of emotions. As the boss continues to drop ink onto the fly he observes how the fly gets weaker each time, and finally dies. After throwing the dead fly into the garbage, the boss is filled with a feeling of uneasiness and cannot understand why, “But such a grinding feeling of wretchedness seized him that he felt positively frightened.” The throwing away of his struggle, leaves the boss bare with nothing left to hide behind, as he had for years prior.

2.   Character- Does the story encourage us to see the characters as real people? Are the characters in the story “larger than life,” mythic or heroic, or are they inferior to us, the objects of scorn and satire?

The protagonist of this short story is the boss. The boss is presented as a regular business man, with a tortured past. Throughout the short story the boss’ life is revealed to the reader, who is able to see how regular of a character the boss is, a man with a job, family and dreams whose life is turned upside down when his son is killed. This type of character is easily related to by the reader because of the simplicity of the characters circumstances. Due to the conditions of the boss’ life, the reader is able to think of him as a real person.

3.  Setting- Does the audience need to know anything about the time and place in order to gain a better understanding?

“The Fly” is set in the boss’ small office which is newly furnished. The only time referred to was the fact that it had been about six years since the death of the boss’ only son. Within the context of this story, the setting of the story is not important, however the time frame is. It is significant that it has been six years since the death of the boss’ son because it portrays how long the boss has been grieving for. The boss is persistent in the idea that no amount of time will take away from his grieving, “Time, he had declared then, he had told everybody, could make no difference.” However, at the end of the short story the boss begins to heal.

4.  Narration- Is it being told in the third person? Is this narrator omniscient (all knowing and seeing) or limited to the thoughts of one character?

The narrator in this short story is omniscient. The narrator tells the reader of the actions the characters display and also the background of each character. The narrator tells the reader thoughts of both the boss and of Mr. Woodifield throughout the story. In this manner, the reader thoroughly learns the terms of the story and the events through different points of view.  At the beginning of the short story the narrator begins by telling Woodifield’s stroke and the limitations set following the stroke. Later, the narrator turns to the past of the boss.

5.  Imagery and Metaphor- An image is anything that appeals to a reader’s imagination through one or more of the senses. Some images are auditory, some visual, some olfactory (smell); how do recurring images enhance certain elements of the story?

Katherine Mansfield uses imagery in specific parts of the short story “The Fly”. First, imagery is used in the presentation of the setting in which the short story will be told. After which, imagery is used in the struggling efforts of the fly, “the draggled fly lay in it and did not stir. The back legs were stuck to the body; the front legs were not to be seen.” Imagery is used in this event of the short story to emphasize the battle of emotions in the boss, and how hard the feelings force themselves upon such a weak person.

6.  Language and Style- Does the author use long complex sentences, short simple sentences, sentence fragments? How do these stylistic choices contribute to the overall meaning of the story?

Katherine Mansfield, the author of “The Fly” begins the short story with short simple sentences, and as the story progresses creates longer, more complex sentences. The less confrontation in the story, the more complex the sentences become, as they are explaining both the thoughts and reason behind the characters actions and therefore require greater detail. Mansfield’s simple writing, turning into complex sentences, shows how complicated life can get when influenced by such a tragic event, as losing a son.  

7.  Contextual Issues- What does the story tell us about our own society/culture?

By reading this short story, the reader is allowed the ability to see how much the human population holds onto wicked events, and how holding onto such events can destroy one’s life. Through letting go of problems and not forcing feelings that are expected by society, “Something seemed to be wrong with him.”, he wasn’t feeling as he wanted to feel.” the person is able to be freed from the chains of the past and able to produce a new future.  


8.  Theme- Keeping all of the above in mind, what is the intention of this story—what is its main idea? What is it trying to tell us?

“The Fly”, by Katherine Mansfield was written in order to teach the reader the importance of life, and how not to dwell on the past. In the short story, the boss wastes his life stuck in the past, which is filled with hurt and regret from the death of his son. Towards the end of the short story, the reader sees the boss progress into the future as he lets go of his forced feelings and begins to heal as an individual. “He fell to wondering what it was he had been thinking about before. What was it? It was…He took out his handkerchief and passed it inside his collar. For the life of him he could not remember.” This excerpt from the short story, “The Fly” displays the beginning of the boss’ healing process towards recovery from the loss of his son.  This short story presents the idea that time, indeed does help in the healing process, however once something has been changed, things will never be as they were before.

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