Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, pdf of the story The Fly by Katherine Mansfield of NBSE Class 11 Alternative English. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.
Summary: Mr Woodifield, an elderly and somewhat infirm gentleman, is conversing with his friend, only referred to as “the boss.” Despite being five years older than Woodifield, the boss is a well-to-do man who is “still going strong.” The boss enjoys showing him around his newly redecorated office, pointing out the new furniture and electric heating. There is an old photograph of a young man, later revealed to be the boss’s deceased son, sitting above a table, but it is not mentioned by the boss.
Woodifield wants to tell the boss something but is having trouble remembering what it is when the boss offers him some fine whisky. After drinking, his memory is refreshed, and Woodifield discusses a recent visit to his son’s war grave in Belgium with his two daughters, claiming to have come across the boss’s son’s grave as well. The reader is now aware that the boss’s son died in World War I six years ago, a loss that deeply affected the boss.
Following Woodifield’s departure, the boss takes a seat at his table to inform his clerk that he does not wish to be disturbed. He is greatly disturbed by the sudden mention of his deceased son and expects to cry, but is surprised to find that he cannot. He examines his son’s photo and concludes that it bears little resemblance to his son, as he appears stern in the photo, whereas the boss recalls him as bright and friendly. The boss then notices a fly trying to escape from the inkpot on his desk. The boss assists it out of the inkpot and watches it dry. When the fly is dry and safe, the boss smears some ink on it. He admires the fly’s bravery and smears on another dollop of ink. He observes the fly drying itself once more, albeit with less vigour than the first time. The fly is severely weakened by the third drop and dies.
The boss tosses the dead fly into the wastepaper basket, along with the blotting paper that was underneath it for his cruel game. He requests new blotting paper from his clerk. The boss feels a horribleness that frightens him and finds himself completely devoid all of a sudden. He tries to recall what he was thinking about before noticing the fly, but he cannot recall his son’s death.
In the story, the fly drowning in ink represents the difficulties that the boss has faced in life, such as the death of his son during a war. However, rather than drowning him in grief, the boss’ memories of his son and the sorrows that followed his death fade, eventually healing him.
A. Understanding the text.
1. What did the wife and his daughters imagine Mr Woodifield to be doing on his day to the City?
Answer: Mr Woodifield’s wife and daughters assumed he was inconveniencing his friends on his way to the city.
2. Why did the boss enjoy being admired by Mr Woodifield?
Answer: Mr Woodifield admires the boss because it gives him a sense of deep, strong gratification to be planted there in full view of Mr Woodifield. He is conceited and takes pride in his possessions.
3. Why did Mr Woodifield’s daughter visit Belgium? What does Mr Woodifield tell the boss about the place?
Answer: Mr Woodifield’s daughters travelled to Belgium to visit their brother Reggie’s grave. Mr Woodifield informed the boss that the property is well-kept and beautifully maintained. It is kept as neat as a garden, with flowers growing on all of the graves and wide paths.
7. Did Mr Woodifield share a differential relationship with the boss?
Answer: Mr Woodifield has a complicated relationship with his boss. He smokes and consumes alcoholic beverages. He is a great flatterer. He has henpecked feathers and is somewhat niggardly. The boss is all about showing off. He enjoys luxury and enjoys being admired and flattered. He enjoys treating others and is easily irritated. He makes every effort to avoid unpleasant memories.
B. Answer the following questions in detail.
1. What does the incident about the fly tell you about the boss’s state of mind?
Answer: The boss’s initial urge to torture the fly, followed by an equally intense desire to support and relieve it of its suffering, could be a result of his conflicted feelings about his son’s death. The fly’s suffering in ink reflects his son’s suffering in the murky trenches while fighting in the war. Because the son had died, the fly deserved to perish as well. According to this logic, the desire to save the fly may be interpreted as the Boss’s desire to exert control over at least one destiny. His words become a feverish chanting. His ingrained sense of superiority, on the other hand, made him unwilling to grant the fly any privilege that he denied his son. What appears to be cruelty on his part could be the result of his inability to calm his mind about suffering, fate, and death.
3. Can the boss come to terms with the inevitability of life and death?
Answer: The boss is never confronted with the reality of his son’s death. And, because he has never fully accepted his son’s death, he is disturbed when his former employee, Mr Woodifield, pays him a visit and tells him about his daughter’s trip to Belgium. The boss sits motionless, visibly shaken by the reality of his son’s death. He waited for his son to take over his company. Despite the fact that the boy had been dead for over six years, the boss never thought of him except as lying unchanged, unblemished in his uniform, sleeping forever. In the past, he had been overcome by grief to the point where nothing short of a violent fit of sobbing could relieve him. Back then, time had no meaning for him. Other men might be able to recover, to live with their loss, but not he. Of course, the tragedy of the boss’s life is a generalisation of human existence. It adds another layer to his character, namely his realisation of the futility and fragility of human endeavour. For the past six years, he has been attempting to forget the memory of his late son. But Woodifield’s casual remark snaps him back to reality. What he has accomplished thus far has been shattered by the whims of the moment. At the end of the story, his character’s final impression is one of insignificance, powerlessness, and denial of life.. Finally, he accepts the inevitability of human fate, i.e., life and death.
Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions
1. Give an explanation for the title of the short story The Fly.
Answer: The title of the story, The Fly, is symbolic. Mansfield wishes to depict the Boss’s helplessness and wretchedness through the helplessness of the fly in the cruel hand of superpowers. The Fly’s Fate or Destiny is played by the Boss. He causes pain to the fly in order to enjoy pleasure. We, as humans, are also pawns in the hands of Fate. God kills us when he wants to, just as the Boss’s son died at a young age. As a result, the symbolic title is both just and appropriate.
2. Who is Mr Woodifield? What is Mr Woodifield’s physical state when the story The Fly begins?
Answer: Mr Woodifield is a character in Katherine Mansfield’s short story The Fly. He was one of the Boss’s friends.
We see him as an old man at the start of the story, weak and feeble due to his age and also because he had a stroke a few months before. Except for Tuesday, he was not allowed to leave the house.
3. What is Mr Woodifield’s role in the story The Fly?
Answer: In this material world, Mr Woodfield is an ‘everyman.’ He acts as a foil for the Boss. He approached the Boss and sharpened his nature in order to reveal his psychology. He was the one who went to the Boss and reminded him of his son’s death, disturbing his hidden grief.
7. When did the fly die?
Answer: When the Boss splattered ink on the fly for the third time, it died. The fly struggled hard to escape and get rid of the sudden danger when the Boss caused the first drop of ink on its newly cleaned body only to test its endurance. Even it escaped for the second time. But when the Boss gave the third drop, it was unable to endure the struggle because it had exceeded its capacity. It died.
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