CHARACTER OF THE BOSS IN KATHERINE MANSFIELD’S THE FLY
Katherine Mansfield’s “The Fly” is a well- executed and literate short-story that offers an interesting set of insights into the nature of human kindness. In the story, a man known only as the boss is the central character, and his relationships form the main part of the story’s focus. The only other significant human character present, Mr. Woodifield, acts as almost a prop to activate a hidden part of the boss’ psyche. The boss’ character is generally less and less sympathetic as the story progresses, so that by the end he appears quite sadistic. He has organized his life around superficial principles that often offer the direct opposite of what he speaks about: his words are a calculated façade.
In the story itself, the reader is introduced to Mr. Woodifield and the boss as they sit in an office. The office is not very busy, and both characters appear to be very advanced in age. The boss’ communication is brusque and cliché-ridden. He is very proud of his material possessions in the office. In a feat of magnanimity he offers his friend a generous share of expensive whiskey but since he is the one who is most likely to do things for other people in a selfish and self-serving manner, he shares his good whiskey with Woodifield, which is superficially a benevolent act of sharing. But the act becomes complicated by many other factors. First of all, the whiskey is not going to be good for Woodifield’s health: he remarks that he is forbidden to drink it at home, assumedly for health reasons. But more concretely, the boss’ act of sharing the whiskey does not instigate social contact and the reduction of inhibitions or barriers: he drinks the whiskey, and is more guarded than ever, even going so far as to mask his reaction to Woodifield’s news about the grave.
Much attention has been paid to the central character of the boss. He has been seen as a symbol of malignant forces that are base and motiveless, a...