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

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With regard to V.S. Pritchett's short story, what does he mean by the title "The Fly in the Ointment"?

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Walter Fischer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Pritchett's story is about the enormous if unspoken gap between a father nearing the end of his life and his adult son, whose professional career has failed to meet the elder's expectations. Or perhaps the father's expectations for the son had always been so limited that the former's disdain for the latter's professional shortcomings provides the moral ammunition the father requires to continue to berate the son. In either case, Pritchett's protagonist , the son, arrives at his father's business on the day the doors to that business will close forever. This, the son thinks, might provide the basis for the development of a new relationship between father and son, as the father's bankruptcy will certainly humble him sufficiently to allow for a more balanced adult relationship. As the son notes to himself early in the story, “Thirty years of your life come to an end. I must see him. I must help him.” The child is becoming the caregiver for the aging parent -- the great equalizer in...

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