What is an analysis of the main themes of "The Fly in the Ointment" by V. S Pritchett.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This short story deals with a particularly fraught relationship between a father and his son. The son visits his father on the day when he shuts down his factory that he has devoted his life to. As the son goes to his father to try and support him through this apparent failure, he slowly recalls that his father has two sides to his personality: one that he reveals to his customers where he presents himself as successful and affable, and then his true internal self, where he is obsessed with money and greed. The son realises during the course of the story that his father has not learnt anything from his obsession with money, even though he claims to have conquered his obsession with it. This is revealed at the end, when the son says he can get some money for his father if he wants it:

The little face suddenly became dominant within the outer folds of skin like a fox looking out of a hole of clay. He leaned forward brusquely on the table and somehow a silver-topped pencil was in his hand preparing to write something briskly on a writing-pad.

The so-called "fly in the ointment" is that the son's father has not changed at all, and his final question pressurising his son for details about the money he can access shows that in truth, he has not changed from his experience of failure and having to shut down his factory. The theme of greed and its negative impact on relationships is thus highlighted.

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