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This short story has been at the centre of often critical and most heated debates in which little consensus on its literary merit or meaning has been attained. The events in this story revolve around a boss and an old friend who visits and reminds him of the death of his son. The man rescues and causes a housefly's death to symbolically mean how people should fight the challenges of death through compassion and humor. The story depicts a man who has completely lost self-awareness. The plot is more concerned with internal rather than external crisis and the focal point of this story is well achieved through the use of epiphany. The story therefore well combines the use of symbolic patterns coupled with images and key ideas which are repeated in order to represent the complexity of the characters' situations and motives. An interpretation of the authors work depict an autobiographical statement during the last months of life and how the author views herself as a helpless victim of unknown and dark forces. The narrative is therefore a critique of patriarchy and metaphysical exploration of people's place in the world as well as war.
"The Fly", a short story by Katherine Mansfield happens in an Office in England's Post WW1. The story deals with two characters each with their own problems. Woodifield lost his freedom in some manner while the boss lost his son. The story's theme is the struggle with internal conflict which can result into difficult choices. Mr. Woodifield's characters include things like lack of control over his life, his age and economic status which makes him to be an effective foil. The main character in the story is however the boss who can be described as being refined, not greedy and very much concerned about the reputation of his business interests. Woodifield's age make him to be an efficient foil and given the fact that he is only five years younger than the boss, they are not too much distant in their age. Because of this age difference, the boss is normally intrigued and gives a listening ear to everything that Woodifield says.
The boss in Catherine Mansfield "The Fly" tests the limits of the fly since he relates the fly with the death of his son which is testing him. The boss wants to ascertain if the fly can withstand the challenges that he gives it. By clearly observing the life of the fly and the memories of his dead son, the boss feels a great admiration for the courage which is displayed by the fly and it is such relation which demonstrates that as one dies, the other one will fade. The boss detests the fly because it is similar to his son and therefore blames both of them for what they have done to him. The boss therefore detests his son for dying and it is this death that makes him to think that life has no meaning at all. The boss wonders why he denied himself so many things in the world, slaved himself and going for all those years with the hope that his son could step in his shoes and carry the mantle from where he had left from. After spending a lot of years working with a hope that his son will one day be in control and safe. The death of his son therefore makes the boss to feel a lot of resentment towards him because he didn't want the years he spends to build his company to amount to nothing.
The boss therefore need to be looked up upon because he was very proud of his office which he greatly admired and loved that one day, the son could come to inherit it. The death of his son therefore makes the boss to feel a lot of resentment and therefore he directs all the blame to his son for leaving. The death of the fly after succumbing to all the tests that were subjected to him by the boss even makes the boss to be angrier than before and therefore he starts to toy with it. The boss therefore becomes angry with the fly and his son for being unable to with stand the life's challenges and succumbing to death. The boss further blames the son for being unable to failing to live up to the expectations of his father by dying.
The memories of his son and the fly are therefore related and the boss attempts to weep or weeps. The boss however admires the courage exhibited by the son and that of his son when he went off the war but contrary to the fly which shrugs off its problems and tries to give it a second try, the son is faulted for lacking the spirit to tackle things like the fly. The fly's motto of "never say die" is the right spirit which the boss expected of his son. The memories of the boss continue to die as the fly dies and therefore the memories of the fly make the boss to forget everything about his son. The subconscious relationship of the boss with his son remains evident when he feels sympathy for the dying fly. The boss clearly understands the fly need to overcome its challenges and struggles before its death but after the death of the fly, the boss's memories also immediately die with it.
The life of the fly has a significant symbolic reference in this story which is clear throughout the whole text. These references to the memories of the boss and his son which fade away after the life of the fly fade. However, Mansfield's literary oeuvre displays "The Fly" as being the most haunting, starkest expressions of and darkest treatment of people's corruption. The story has a multi layered symbolism because the vigorous boss who is at first seen in contrast to Woodifield is seen at the end of the story to have forgotten, together with his friend, the deaths of their sons. The boss is likened to a greedy boy while his friend is likened to a baby but both men are portrayed lacking real strength and being immature and because of their personal weaknesses, both are unable to visit the graves of their sons because of their frailty and deficiency. Symbolically, the fly in the narrative represents among other things, the men who are under the control of the boss. However, there has been no exact meaning of "The Fly" in Mansfield narrative and therefore the story has elicited a variety of interpretations by various people over a long period of time.