Compare and contrast Harold's character with his father in both physical appearance and characteristics in the story "The Fly in the Ointment.""Fly in the Ointment" by V.S. Pritchett

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In V.S. Pritchett's "The Fly in the Ointment," Harold and his father are only slightly similar in appearance. Neither is tall. However, where Harold his going bald, doesn't stand straight and isn't dressed well, his father is a commanding figure, dressed quite nicely.

They were both short. The father was well-dressed in an excellent navy-blue suit. He was a vigorous, broad man with a pleased impish smile. The sun burn shone through the clipped white hair of his head and he had the simple, trim, open-air look of a snow man. The son beside him was round-shouldered and shabby, a keen but anxious fellow in need of a hair-cut and going bald.

It would be safe to say, also, that the men are very different in how they act. Generally, the father is cheerful and outgoing, showing a big face, but then (Harold notices) a small-face emerges: one that is "babyish, shrewd, scared and hard." This seems to be the face he has shown Harold in the past, but Harold only now realizes the two sides of his father. The old man actually detests Harold, but seems to shyly appreciate his son's presence as he is forced to vacate his business in the face of bankruptcy, after thirty years.

The old man speaks of letting things go; he admits that he has made mistakes, putting money before everything else. It would appear that he is finally seeing the world through new eyes, and making the best of the situtation. Harold, who is so sorry for his father's plight and feels so sad, tells his father that had there been any way to raise money for him, he would have done so. Immediately, with the speed of a cobra's strike, his father spins on the word "money" and demands the details of how his son will get the money, and why hadn't he said something before.

The reader finds that the old man has not changed. He is willing to take what he can get from the son he despises, and he has learned nothing in losing his business. Harold, on the other hand, is a decent son, though not well thought of by his father. Knowing how difficult his dad can be, he still resolves to be there to support his father through this difficult time.

The old man may look the part of a successful business man, but Harold acts the part of a decent and loving son. This is echoed in the title of another of Pritchett's works, "Handsome Is as Handsome Does."

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