In "The Fly," Mansfield describes the boss's love for and pride in his only son. When he received a telegram telling him that the boy had been killed, "he had left the office a broken man, with his life in ruins." All his hard work in building up the business was, as far as he was concerned, solely for the benefit of his son, and it had now become meaningless. At the time when the story takes place, it is six years later, and the boss has been able to keep himself from thinking about his son continually. He is reminded of his death by a conversation with an old friend, who tells him that his daughters had been on a trip to Belgium and had seen his son's grave there.
The boss manages to distract himself from thoughts of his son by observing the struggles of a fly that has fallen into his inkpot. By the time the fly is dead, he cannot remember what he was thinking about before. It seems that, over the years, the boss has trained himself effectively to forget, or at least to sublimate, his grief at his son's death. He has done this in order to survive, since the memories of his son were too painful for him to endure.