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

In "The Fly," the boss is a man whose psychological well-being has been wrecked by the death of his son in the First World War. Completely traumatized by his tragic loss, he is unable to move on with his life.

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Although a minor character in Katherine Mansfield's "The Fly," Mr. Woodifield is central to the story's development. He has had a stroke, and his wife and daughters keep him at home most of the time; however, on Tuesdays, they release him to the city, "dressed and brushed" so that he appears presentable. They "couldn't imagine" what he does there all day but assume that he must be a "nuisance" to those he comes in contact with. This conveys a sense that they don't really appreciate Mr. Woodifield and that they find him bothersome themselves.

Nevertheless, Mr. Woodifield and the boss share a sense of intimacy, heightened because they have both lost sons. As the story opens, the two men exchange pleasantries and friendly conversation, sharing a shot of whisky that Mr. Woodifield's family forbids him to touch when he's at home. The boss sympathizes with their shared plight as men, noting that they "know a bit more than the ladies" about such matters.

This sense of camaraderie is abruptly broken when Mr. Woodifield unintentionally steps into an emotional landmine by casually bringing up the grave of the boss's son. Although his intention is to compliment the final resting place of the young man, Mr. Woodifield actually inflicts a renewed pain on the boss, who is still reeling from the loss of his son six years prior. Mr. Woodifield's casual comments dramatically shift the mood of the story from one of friendly engagement to a pained sense of loss. Because of this, he is quickly asked to leave. In the end, Mr. Woodifield unintentionally proves to be the "nuisance" that his wife and daughters believe him to be.

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To the outside world, the boss presents the perfectly normal image of a capable, hard-working businessman. In actual fact, however, he's a shell of a man, scarred forever by the tragic death of his son in World War I.

When his friend Mr. Woodifield pays a visit to his office, the boss seems perfectly normal. But when Mr. Woodifield mentions his daughters' recent visit to his son's war grave, it triggers the boss's deep trauma over the death of his own son.

Somehow or other, the boss manages to keep it together while Mr. Woodifield is in his office. But as soon as his friend leaves, he is plunged into despair and feels the overwhelming urge to cry. However, he resists the urge but only by keeping himself occupied. This he does by torturing a fly to death until he can no longer remember what he was sad about.

With his son no longer alive, the boss feels that his life is essentially meaningless. He must somehow give his life meaning, perhaps by throwing himself into his business, but that's easier said than done. The boss needs something in his life that will help him come to terms with his son's death and deal with his loss. For now, torturing a fly to death will suffice, but in the future, he will need to find something else to do.

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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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