Bring out the multiple layers of meaning in Katherine Mansfield's "The Fly."

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This excellent story relates to the theme of death, which is displayed in a number of ways in the story. Firstly, when the boss considers Woodfield, he sees a man who has to all intents and purposes suffered a kind of "death." He is now dominated by his wife and daughters, and they control every aspect of his life, forcing him to lead a passive existence. The only day of the week he gets to go out is Tuesday, when he is dressed up and sent out to visit old friends. The boss therefore offers Woodfield whisky in a benevolent manner to indicate the power that he has in comparison. Woodfield is clearly on his way to death, as his memory would indicate, however, the fact that he is unable to remember his daugthers' visit to his son's grave indicates the death of his memory of his son.

In the same way, the boss, although so different from Woodfield, suffered a kind of death when his son died six years ago. Also, we find that rather disturbingly, the boss has suffered a death of the memory of his son. He looks at his son's photograph and does not recognise him:

Something seemed to be wrong with him. He wasn't feeling as he wanted to feel. He decided to get up and have a look at the boy's photograph. But it wasn't a favourite photograph of his; the expression was unnatural. It was cold, even stern-looking. The boy had never looked like that.

The boss tortures a fly rather than crying. Mansfield presents us with a man who is actually dead to every human emotion and unable to grieve any more or even to remember his son.