What is the status of women in "The Fly"?

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In Katherine Mansfield’s short story “The Fly,” the status of women can be described as forceful, inferior, or lacking in agency. In the story, the women don’t speak for themselves. What’s known about the women is relayed through the men. Mr. Woodifield tells the story of “the girls” and the overpriced pot of jam in his voice. While he specifically names Gertrude (one of his daughters), there is not a direct quotation attributed to Gertrude. Rather, Mr. Woodifield paraphrases Gertrude’s remarks about the jam incident.

The Gertrude anecdote reveals that women are not without some power. Gertrude protests the price of the jam by stealing the pot. At home, the women appear to have more power than Mr. Woodifield, as they can keep him “boxed up” and sober.

At the same time, the depiction of women can be read as demeaning. They seem to be a source of irritation and ridicule for the men. After Mr. Woodifield tells the boss how the women at home don’t let him “touch” alcohol, the boss replies, “Ah, that's where we know a bit more than the ladies.” This quotation implies that the men believe themselves to be more clever than the women.

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