CHARACTER OF THE BOSS IN ?THE FLY?
The Boss is the central figure in Katherine Mansfield?s short story The Fly. He is a puzzling, perplexing psychological study like one of Browning?s Men and Women. He is again simply called the Boss, as Wordsworth?s Leech-gatherer is called the Man. The implication is that he is not so much an individual as a type. He is a type of the property Victorian cousin to Galsworthy?s Soames Forsyte to whom his business is the absorbing passion, so much so that in six years he cannot find time to pay a visit to the Belgian graveyard where his only son lies buried.
His generic name the ?Boss? is appropriate in that it brings out his main character quality which is almost a ?humour? with him. He is first and foremost the successful business magnate who heads the establishment. He has steadily built up his business, in spite the shock of his son?s death, over the years and he takes pride in the new carpet, the new furniture and the central heating with which the office is done up.
It is unlikely that the Boss is partly modeled on Katherine Mansfield?s father for, on the whole, it is not a flattering study. He is pleasant and cordial in his dealing with Woodifield and generous in his hospitality. But, that is mainly because Woodifield?s presence him the benefit of contrast which inflates his ego.
His sadism in the treatment of the fly is a sort of reflex action prompted by war neurosis. The war has deadened his sensibilities. His grief has dried up into a vicarious and symbolic revenge in the fly episode. ?As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods,/ They kill us for their sport? wrote Shakespeare in King Lear. The wanton war gods, the bosses at the war office, toyed with the lives of young men as if they were flies. The Boss as a bereaved but spiritually deadened father takes vicarious revenge on the symbolic fly, even while admiring its courage and tenacity of resistance, just as the war gods were loud in their exaltation of the doomed youths while hurling them into battle till they died.