The Fly in the Ointment Questions and Answers
by V. S. Pritchett

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What is the relationship between the father and son in "The Fly in the Ointment"?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The relationship between father and son is troubled, certainly, as the father often seems to say too much while Harold, the son, holds his tongue and tries to keep his patience. Harold tries to speak gingerly to his father to avoid saying things that might offend the older man, working out "the most tactful and sympathetic word to use" before he speaks. However, his father certainly does not employ this same tact and care when addressing his son.

His "warm voice" often goes "dead and rancorous" when speaking, and it even seems as though another, smaller face emerges from the softer, warmer, and larger one. He criticizes his son for going so bald—as though there were something he could do about it—harping on it and insisting Harold fix it somehow.

Meanwhile, though his father cannot seem to hold his tongue—or, more likely, he simply does not care to—Harold holds back quite a lot in order to keep the (tenuous) peace between them:

“For heaven’s sake,” he wanted to shout,...

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