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Explore the ways in which conflict in families is presented in `King Lear' and
There are many connections in which conflict in family relationships is presented in these two stories. The stories
appear loosely connected at first but it is their deeper meaning and analogies that share the same message. The main
theme in each of the stories is fathers and their children. Each writer expresses how a father and child's relationship
can affect each other's lives and how this can lead to conflict in families.
One way in which family conflict is explored in both stories is how fathers do not truly `see' and know who their
children are. In Mansfield's story `The Fly' the Boss does not recognize the change the war had about his son. When
the Boss is thinking about the photo of his son in the army he dislikes it because `it was cold and even stern looking,
the boy had never looked like this', this shows that the Boss only remembered his son when he was happy. Mansfield
might have wanted to show that parents make themselves `blind' to the things there children are if they do not want
them to be so. The Boss only remembers his son as a happy child but it is evident from the photo that the boy had
been unhappy at some time; the Boss however was `blind' to this when the boy was alive.
In the same way that Mansfield shows one conflict in family relationships is parents not `seeing' their children's
emotions, Shakespeare shows that conflict can arise from parents not truly `seeing' their children's nature. In
Shakespeare's play `King Lear' Gloucester does not truly understand Edmund and believes that Edmund is good and
loves him however Edmund actually dislikes his father and plots against him leading to Gloucester's downfall. It is not
until Gloucester's eyes are gouged out when Edmund betrays him that he realises what his son really is and he `sees'
his sons true evil nature.
Conflict in family relationships is also explored by the writers in how somebody can affect the fate of someone else.
In King Lear Gloucester's fate is controlled very much by Edmund. In a scene on the heaths Gloucester says `As flies to
wanton boys, are we to the Gods; they kill us for their sport' likening the gods to uncaring children and man to
insignificant flies that are subject to cruelty. Edmund is the uncaring child that decides Gloucester's fate and puts him
through struggle after struggle.
Mirroring Gloucester's struggles is the fly in Katherine Mansfield's story. The Boss acting like a God, takes revenge on
the fly dropping blots of ink and inflicting upon it pain after pain, admiring its courage and resistance, until the fly can
no longer struggle onwards and dies. The fly has been an expense for the Boss' fun. Mansfield could have been using
the fly as a symbol for the men under the boss' control or his son. The son could have suffered from the same
unthinking treatment; the Boss may have pushed him into war leading to his death.
Another conflict in family relationships that is explored in the stories is when parents worry more about
appearance/status or capital than their children. In `The Fly' the Boss has failed to visit his son's grave even six years
after his son's death. He has been too busy running his business. When Woodisfield is visiting him he takes pride in
pointing out the new furniture he owns in his office. Katherine Mansfield clearly shows that the Boss is a man who
worries about what people think of him and wants to set a good impression. When he thinks about his son he thinks
about what people thought of his son and how people had said he'd been a good father. The Boss could have not
really been too bothered about the boy and what he wanted but could have been more interested in what other
In King Lear Shakespeare makes it clear that Gloucester is worried about what people think of him when they find out
his son Edmund was born out of marriage, he admits to a friend in front of Edmund that he was embarrassed by it.
Gloucester does not think of how he could be upsetting Edmund by saying these things. Shakespeare might have
wanted to show the damage this behaviour can lead to.
Another family conflict that is explored by the two writers in their stories is that suffering produces greater
understanding and knowledge. In King Lear, both fathers suffer greatly before they realise why. Lear is banished
from his castle and cast aside by his two daughters before he realises Cordelia truly loved him and that his other two
daughters were evil. Gloucester has his eyes gouged out before he realises what natures his sons were.
In `The Fly' the Boss realises that all his hard work and time spent on building up his business is meaningless now his
son is dead as the sole purpose of the business was to hand it down to his son. The Boss realises that his life holds no
meaning. Katherine Mansfield could be exploring the how people or parents don't realise what they have until they