Business Essay, Research Paper
In the novel Swamp Angel the main character, Maggie, asserts that “swimming is like living , it is done alone”. This is, in fact, a very telling statement with respect to the life of both Maggie and the life of Dunstan, the main character in the novel The Fifth Business. Maggie’s comparison of life to swimming raises interesting points about the way in which each of the two characters proceed along the road of life.
Maggie’s statement is actually a simile which compares swimming alone to living life. In most cases a simile is used to take certain characteristics of one entity and to bestow them upon another entity in which they are not usually found. Maggie’s comparison of swimming alone to life is no different. It is generally held, in modern society, that life is a journey that is made with the help of others. Intimate interpersonal relationships are viewed as support systems in life. Many people view these relationships as that which makes life worth living. Maggie’s statement directly refutes these claims. When one is swimming alone there is no one to rely on for safety and guidance. The owness of survival, in essence not drowning, falls squarely upon the shoulders of the swimmer alone. Maggie’s comparison leads one to believe that the same is true for life. In life , as in swimming alone, one should rely only on oneself for survival.
Maggie’s comparison of life and swimming alone, and all that it implies, can easily be viewed as the personal motto that both Maggie and Dunstan live by. Each character is very strong willed and independent as one would expect. Anyone who lives life alone would have to be both of these. the characters also share another similarity, though. This being that their lives both lack the intimate interpersonal relationships that are mentioned above. Each character
travels through life maintaining relationships which exist on a very shallow and superficial level. There are of course an exception here and there, but the majority of the relationships drastically lack substance.
Over the course of Swamp Angel Maggie journeys to numerous places and interacts with a multitude of people. For the purposes of this essay it would be impossible to study her relationship with every person she encounters. Thus her relationships with her husband, Eddie Vardoe, as well as her relationship with the Gunnarsen’s, Vera and Haldar, will be examined here.
Maggie’s relationship to Eddie Vardoe is a prototypical example of a relationship which lacks substance. The relationship is far from the equal partnership that a marriage is ideally supposed to be. The relationship lacks a deeper emotional level. Maggie is basically reduced to another of Vrdoe’s possessions, no more valuable than his car or his business. To Vardoe, Maggie is the woman that cleans the house, cooks his meals and irons his clothes. She is someone to talk to at the end of the workday. The conversation between Vardoe and Maggie is much like that of a master to his dog. Vardoe speaks and Maggie listens.
Eventually Maggie grows tired and frustrated with this situation. She devises a plan to flee Vardoe and the house which has become a prison. When she eventually carries out the plan she does it on her own. She does not even confide in here best friend Hilda. This is a prime example of Maggie’s “swimming alone”.
After fleeing her home Maggie embarks on a journey. This journey eventually lands her at a Three Loon Lake, a small fishing resort. Here she gains employment and forms two more
interpersonal relationships. these are with the owners of the resort, Haldar and Vera Gunnarsen. Maggie stays at Three Loon Lake for an extended period of time but never allows her relationships with the Gunnarsens to develop on any emotional level. During the majority of her stay she keeps her past a mystery. In doing so she keeps the Gunnarsens at a safe distance, never allowing emotional bonds to form. She prides herself on her independence and doesn’t see the need to become emotionally close to the Gunnarsens.
Maggie’s relationships with the Gunnarsens and Vardoe can be viewed at representative of the majority of the relationships she maintains throughout her life. These relationships exist only on a superficial level and never develop on an emotional level. There is one exception to this trend. This exception is Nell Severance. Nell is the mother of Maggie’s friend Hilda. The relationship between Nell and Maggie does develop on an emotional level. Maggie cares a great deal for Nell and never ceases to communicate. This relationship is the one anomaly in a life that is filled with superficial relationships.
Dunstan, much like Maggie, travels through life maintaining relationships that lack in substance. Dunstan maintains many relationships built upon intellectual foundations but rarely, if ever, maintains a relationship built upon a foundation of intimacy. Dunstan continuously travels throughout his life and makes many acquaintances. For the purposes of this essay his relationships with Diane and Boy Staunton will be examined.
While Dunstan is hospitalized after his efforts in the war he meets a nurse named Diane. Over the course of his stay in the hospital and after his release Dunstan’s relationship with Diane continuously progresses. To both parties it seems as though the relationship is a romantic one.
To the reader it becomes evident that this is not so. Although both Dunstan and Diane may have believed the relationship was built upon higher emotion they were mistaken. each member of the relationship used the other for personal reasons. Dunstan used Diane as a crutch. She nursed him back to health physical and eventually mentally. Dunstan used his relationship with Diane as a means to restore his confidence and dignity, along with his sense of self worth. On the other hand, Diane used Dunstan as a sort of project. She took him as a broken man and transformed him into a confident self sufficient man. Once Dunstan had fully regained his physical and mental abilities the relationship became redundant. Dunstan could no longer be used as a project and Diane no longer served her purpose as a crutch. Thus the two parted ways.
The longest running relationship Dunstan maintains is shared with Boy Staunton. Dunstan and Boy maintain a relationship that lasts from childhood until Boy’s death . While on a surface level this relationship may seem to be a friendship it is not. This relationship , like Dunstan’s relationship with Diane, is another example of two people using each other for personal gain.
Throughout adulthood Dunstan uses boy for many self serving purposes. The most obvious of these is financial gain. Boy’s financial advice allows Dunstan to maintain a healthy bank account even in the worst socioeconomic periods. It is this money that allows Dunstan to take the many trips he enjoys so much. Dunstan also uses Boy as means to meeting prestigious and interesting people. The numerous dinner parties that Dunstan attends at Boy’s home are basically the only social functions Dunstan is involved with. Finally, Dunstan uses Boy as a way
to boost his own ego. He looks down at Boy for being materialistic. he contrasts his own values with those of Boy’s and thus judges the worth of his own as higher.
The relationship between these two men is by no means of a parasitic nature. Boy also uses Dunstan for self serving purposes. Boy uses Dunstan as someone to whom he can boast. He tells Dunstan of his exploits with women and with famous people thus boosting his own ego. Just as Dunstan uses Boy as someone to look down upon Boy uses Dunstan as someone to look down upon. He scorns Dunstan’s inability to manage money along with his lack of female companions. In doing so he judges Dunstan to be less of a man and in turn himself to be the greater man.
Through analyzing the personal relationships of both Maggie and Dunstan many similarities can be found. Both characters display a pattern of maintaining relationships which lack depth. that is to say that the relationships never reach an emotional level where intimacy is evident. I also becomes evident that both characters pride themselves on independence. Neither character is willing to lean on another person , as this is viewed as weakness.
If these characters can be viewed as spokespeople for Ethel Wilson and Robertson Davies it would seem as though both authors would agree with Maggies statement that “swimming is like living, it is done alone”. This statement is defiantly applicable to both characters but it seems dangerous to assume that the characters are representative of the authors