“The Fly” was published in the The Nation and Athenaeum in 1922. At the time, Mansfield was grieving over the loss of her brother, who died in a military training accident shortly before he was to be deployed to France at the start of World War I. At the time of writing, Mansfield was also gravely ill with tuberculosis, which would lead to her untimely death at just thirty-four years old. These biographical factors are strong influences on the text.
Critical reception has been confused, especially as regarding the central symbolism of the story. Critics argue over what the fly actually symbolizes. Katherine? The boss? Something else altogether? Critics have also been polarized over the quality of the story. In 2008, Chris Powers of The Guardian condemned "The Fly" as "melodramatic, clumsy, and at times unbearably sentimental." Nevertheless, "The Fly" has been recognized as a dark portrayal of World War I on European society, and more broadly, the effect of loss and grief on the human psyche.