The Fly Questions and Answers
by Katherine Mansfield

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Discuss the characters of Mr. Woodifield or Boss in Katherine Mansfield's short story "The Fly"

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The boss is Mr. Woodifield’s friend and the main character in this short story. He is described as “stout, rosy and five years older than Mr. Woodifield." Even though he is older than his friend, the boss is stronger and still working at his own business. He is also wealthier than his friend as he is able to redo his office with enviable fittings: a carpet, new furniture, and electric heating. He has lost his only son to the war, an event that has devastated him, so much so that he has since kept a photograph of the boy on his office table. In spite of his strength, he has compassion within him, for he offers some whiskey to Mr. Woodifield to warm him up. Also, he sets time aside to talk to Mr. Woodifield, even walking him to the door at the end of the visit. Through the boss’s character, we are able to understand the healing power of time. In the first years following his son’s death, the mere thought of his son had brought immense grief “that nothing short of a violent fit of weeping could relieve him." Six years on, and the boss is better able to face his son’s demise, even though he still grieves him.

According to the boss, Mr. Woodifield is “old and on his last pins." Woodifield is retired and has recently suffered a stroke, following which his family keeps him indoors, except for Tuesdays of every week when they let him go to the city. He has lost a son (Reggie) to the war, just like the boss. However, while the boss appears to have fought against the cruel hand of fate to emerge even stronger, Mr. Woodifield seems to have been weakened by his problems.

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