Of Flies and Men

The scene with the fly is important in capturing the mood of the time the story is set in. The fly falls in the ink, is “saved” by the boss, and then ultimately killed after the boss drops ink on it three more times. I see an analogy of humanity at the hands of death in this.
The boss aids the fly by taking it out of inkpot, but the description of the fly while in the inkpot is not a fortitudinous moment; instead it is a moment full of anxiety and desperation. The fly is said to be “…trying feebly but desperately to clamber out again” (3) The boss pulls the fly out but has no dialogue and no thoughts in the immediate context—this is the author’s identification of a chaotic world where things occur, they just occur—meaning that the boss’ help makes no difference in the fly’s ultimate end: death. The death is foreshadowed by the fly’s own cleaning, “Over and under, over and under, went a leg along a wing, as the stone goes over and under the scythe.” The scythe indicates death as the grim reaper is regularly portrayed with this tool in hand. The fly is a metaphor for humanity and human mortality becomes scary because of the damage caused by WWI; however, some hope is given as the fly is clean the first time, the passage says “It was ready for life again” (3).
In the following two paragraphs, the boss drops blots of ink on the fly twice, but the fly is successful in cleaning itself both times; although the fly is “cowed, stunned, and afraid to move” in the unexpected events. (3) After so many efforts, the fly begins to wane in strength and morale. (3) Upon dropping ink a third time, the fly dies. It is narrated with no flowery prose, but rather quick and of no consequence, “…this time should be the last, as he dipped the pen deep into the inkpot. It was…the fly was dead” (4). The hope rendered earlier is destroyed and the meaning of life is raised in a subtle manner. The fly died no matter how hard it tried and for no real cause; much in the same way many perceived WWI, a war with no end where many died for no palpable cause. This troubles the boss, for after he throws the “corpse” into the thrash, he feels “wretched” and “frightened.” (4)
After WWI the morale of the world was weak and depressive about human existence. The fly in this story represents humanity’s view of itself after a devastating and draining war. The fly expresses a world where the hardest attempts to change events is useless towards death; whatever happens, happens, no cause or resolution needs to be clear.

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