In Katherine Mansfield's story "The Fly," what does the fly represent?

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In the short story "The Fly" by Katherine Mansfield, an old man named Woodifield is visiting a friend referred to only as the boss, who is five years older. The boss appears strong, self-reliant, and prosperous, while Woodifield is physically weak and dominated by his family. They share a tumbler of whiskey and then Woodifield remembers something he had wanted to tell the boss: on a recent trip to Belgium to visit Woodifield's son's grave, his family had also come across the grave of the boss's son. Both young men had died during World War I and were interred in a vast graveyard full of flowers and broad paths.

After Woodifield leaves, the boss informs his assistant that he doesn't want to be disturbed for half an hour. He then sits at his desk, presumably to mourn for his son. However, no tears come. The boss observes a fly struggling in an inkpot, helps it out, sets it on a blotter, and watches it clean itself off. Instead of leaving it alone, though, the boss drops more ink on the...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 820 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 6, 2020