Summary of A fly in the ointment by V.S Pritchett.

It is an interesting study of a double personality. Most of us have double personalities. One is our real personality and the other is that which we show to the world. Many people are hypocrites. They conceal a very ugly interior under a beautiful exterior. The story also tells us that lust for money estranges a son from the father. It is very difficult to overcome this lust.

A bank factory-owner becomes bankrupt. His liquidators take away all his machines and furniture. He is sitting alone in his empty drawing room. His son, Harold, a poor University professor, comes to help and sympathies with him. Harold has been much disliked by his father for his poor job and low financial status. Harold enters the room, and starts consoling his father. The father tries to keep up appearances. He tells Harold that he is not at all worried. Many other big businessmen have also been bankrupted along with him. He explains that such riches and falls are very common in business. He says that lust for money is a curse. He always wanted to make more money than he wanted. Now he is happy because the curse has left him. He declares that now he will live a very easy, happy simple and contented life in some remote village.

All of a sudden, a fly enters the room. The father gets upset. He gets up with a duster to kill it. He tells that he has always hated these dirty things. No fly had over dared enter his room till then. Harold opens the window and the fly goes out. But in enters again, and sticks to the ceiling. The father stands at the top of the table and tries to kill it, but in vain. He feels tired out. Suddenly, he starts looking very old and weak. He requests Harold to help him climb down the table. When he comes down, he tells Harold that he is already sixty-five, and is nearing his death. He cannot struggle any more. He was sadly and badly mistaken in running after money all his life.

Quite unexpectedly, Harold makes him an offer of money to restart his business. The old man, at first rejects the offer. But when Harold repeats, and the old man becomes sure that the offer is real, he jumps with joy. His face starts becoming with excitement. The outer mask of his personality is removed. His real personality of a businessman comes to the forefront. He astonishingly asks Harold why he did not tell him about that money before.


  1. Excellent summary which indeed gave an interesting example of double personality.


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