Discuss the significance of Woodifield Episode in The Fly by Mansfield

The Woodifield episode forms one of the two parts of the story, The Fly. In one of the shortest stories, it is the shorter episode. It is all about the visit of an old fellow, Mr. Woodifield, to his old friend and associate, the boss, who is the hero of the story, and his talk about the latter’s son’s grave.

Mr. Woodifield is an old man, of course, five years younger than the boss, but illness has made him rather infirm and weak and restricted his movement. Since his last stroke, he has not been allowed to come out of his home, except on every Tuesday. He, however, has the full opportunity for making the best use of his Tuesday, his only weekly free day. He visits his old friends and passes his time recklessly in their company as in the past on this very day and seems to go back to his old life.

On one such Tuesday, Mr. Woodifield comes to the boss, sits comfortably in his sitting room, admires his arrangements there and compliments his taste. The boss is well pleased with his old acquaintance and the latter’s jealous admiration of his possessions. He speaks proudly of his new costly furniture, seating arrangements, and other comforts. He also has a sense of self-complacence for his better health, greater assets and more
comforts of life. He speaks rather in a tone of patronization with him.

Of course, Mr. Woodifield has come with a purpose to give the boss a message, but his old memory fails. He fails to recollect why he has come. The boss offers him a very costly drink, used in the royal family. This revives his memory, and he remembers that he has come to tell the boss of the condition of the grave of his only son who died on the French front some six years ago. His daughters who had visited the place only recently brought to
him that piece of information. Mr.Woodifield pays a good deal of compliments to the way in which the graves are maintained there. He speaks of the flowers growing there and the smooth path running by its side. He also refers to the way in which his daughters were cheated by the hotel-keepers there. In short, he speaks out, without caring for his listener’s reaction, a good deal of matters.

Mr. Woodifield’s words, however, have little effect on the boss who is lost in the memory of his dead son at the former’s reference to his grave. Mr. Woodifield goes away, and the boss remains alone, recalling the past and
pining for what he has lost.

The Woodifield episode is short and simple and serves to reveal much of the nature of the old, feeble, talkative fellow, living in restriction. The old fellow is somehow fascinated by the charms of outward comforts and luxuries. He is impressed, rather kept spell-bound, by the arrangements of comfort and ease which have been made by the boss. He seems to have no mental strength to think deeply. Even the memory of his dead son has no deeper effect on him, and he praises the maintenance of the grave-yard and its impressive site as also the behavior of the hotel man with his daughters.

But the Woodifield episode has a greater significance. This is to stir the sorrow that lies deep in the core of the boss’ heart. The bereaved father is brought out of his external glamour and patronization to the wretched feeling of human sorrow and helplessness. He feels once more what he has lost and laments deeply for the Joss of his only hope, his only asset of life, his son. All this leads to the more vital affair of the story- the fly episode, wherein is implanted the human tragedy of the story.