The theme of “The Fly” by the English poet Walter de la Mare is enlightenment through defamiliarization. Though the tone of the poem is whimsical, it causes the reader to pause and reconsider the beauty of the simplest, smallest things. To help convey the surprising complexity of ordinary objects, de la Mare makes use of vivid imagery as well as figurative language in the form of metaphor and simile.
The poem’s magic lies in its descriptions. Rather than simply telling the reader that the objects a person sees as small appear gigantesque to a fly, de la Mare makes the objects strange and unfamiliar: “A dewdrop [is] like a looking-glass.” The short, three-stanza poem is chock-full of such evocative similes. Some comparisons are gentle, others, like this metaphor, are more ominous: “A wasp, a cruel leopard.” What all his uses of figurative language have in common is that they change the reader’s view of the world completely. De la Mare invites the reader into a land of fantasy where imagination is key to enlightenment. The reader cannot see the complexity of rosebuds and loaves of bread with fresh eyes if he does not agree to put aside his human notions and, in an almost childlike manner, adopt a completely different persona.