What role does Mr. Woodifield play in "The Fly"?

In "The Fly," Mr. Woodifield provides a contrast to the boss, first in his general situation in life, then in his attitude to the death of his son. He also brings up the topic of the boss's son when he mentions that his own daughters have seen the boy's grave.

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Mr. Woodifield appears in the first half of "The Fly," misdirecting the reader's attention, since he seems at first to be the protagonist. He gives the reader the opportunity to see the boss as he normally appears to others, a successful businessman, confident, jovial, and without introspection or self-pity. Woodifield is rather a pathetic figure, and the boss, who is in fact five years older than he is, sees him, as the reader does, as a broken-down old man with little in life to which he can look forward. His obvious emotion when the boss offers him some whisky, which he is not allowed to drink at home, clearly establishes the boss's position of superiority.

It is also Woodifield who brings up the subject of the deaths of both their sons, creating the transition to the second half of the story, in which the boss broods alone over the death of his son and distracts himself with the struggling fly. Woodifield seems to have come to terms with the death of his son and is able to mention it, then go on to trivial matters without apparent concern. This provides a stark contrast to the depth of the boss's feelings: though he does not weep, he is clearly still deep in grief over his son.

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