What happens in The Fly?

In "The Fly," a character known only as "the boss" greets his old friend Mr. Woodifield, who visits him at work. Both Woodifield and the boss lost their sons in WWI. Reminded of this, the boss sits down at his desk, where he tortures a fly until he forgets about his grief.

  • Mr. Woodfield comes to visit the boss. Though only five years his senior, the boss thinks of Mr. Woodifield as "old" and takes great pleasure in showing off to him.

  • Both the boss and Mr. Woodifield lost their sons in World War I. The latter reports that his daughters recently visited his son's grave.

  • When Mr. Woodifield leaves, the boss sits down, thinking he might cry. Instead, he takes a fly out of his inkpot and slowly tortures it to death until he forgets what he was sad about.

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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Fly” is a story told primarily through the eyes of “the boss,” the protagonist, who is described not by name but by function. The story has two parts. In the first part, Mr. Woodifield (whom the boss thinks of as “old Woodifield”), retired since his stroke, visits his friend the boss, who, though five years older than Woodifield, is still in charge of the firm. Woodifield and the boss have one experience in common: Both lost sons in World War I.

The boss enjoys showing Woodifield his redecorated office and benevolently offering him some whiskey. Then Woodifield, who has momentarily forgotten what he meant to tell the boss, remembers. His daughters have been in Belgium to see the grave of their brother, Woodifield’s son, and they have also seen that of the boss’s son. After Woodifield reports that the cemetery is well kept, he leaves, and...

(The entire section is 315 words.)