Fifth Business Essay, Research Paper
In many Canadian novels, there are a variety of factors that he author can incorporate to affect character lives. One factor that enrages the characters consciences the most, is guilt. In Robertson Davie s Fifth Business, guilt is the main theme in which affects three main characters dramatically. Because of their guilt, the rest of their lives are forever changed. In the novel Fifth Business, the idea of guild is a constant factor and extensively affects the lives of Boy Staunton, Paul Dempster and Dunstan Ramsay.
In Fifth Business, Boy Staunton, once known as Percy Staunton is one of the characters in the novel that portrays the downfall due to his guilt. Boy is a man of honor and extreme dignity; there is nothing h could not live up to. Unfortunately near the age of 65, he discovers his crime that he committed innocently at the age of 10. Boy threw a snowball with a rock in it at Dunstan and missed hitting the pregnant Mrs. Dempster s head. As a result of this, Boy felt the guilt of his actions. In front of the Dempster s just as Percy threw, and the snow ball hit Mrs. Dempster on the back of the head. She gave a cry and, cling to her husband, and slipped to the ground. (Davies 2) Right after this incident, Mary Dempster was forced to give birth to her premature son. The future of the Dempsters went downhill shortly after, because Mary became insane and deprived her son of a normal upbringing. Learning the cause of Mary s insanity, Boy begins to feel responsible for the accident and for her disoriented life. Furthermore, Mary s lunacy caused her son, Paul Dempster to live a mocked life that eventually made him run away. After realizing that Dunstan has been responsible of taking care of her for over 40 years, Boy feels extreme guilt. In addition to the guilt of neglecting his belated wife, which caused her to commit suicide, Boy s superior life begins to break down. The overwhelming guilt finally forces him to take his own life, which leaves many to question why he did. Why would the President of Alpha Corporation, a man of notably youthful in appearance and outlook, and one of the two or three riches men in Canada, want to kill himself? (Davies 257) Boy discovers that having everything in the world will not satisfy his conscience and the guilty emptiness that he feels. The police find a piece of rock in Boy s mouth, the same one that he put in the snowball that hit Mary Dempster. This act proves that Boy committed suicide:
But the most curious fact of all was that in Boy s mouth the police found a stone an ordinary piece of pinkish granite about the size of a small egg which could not possibly have been where it was unless he himself, or someone unknown, had put it there. (Davies 257)
By having the stone with him shows that he still shows remorse of throwing that snowball and the rock is the origin of his total guilt. His guilt caused his death:
Repressed guilt does considerable damage and ultimately recoils on himself. It is probably tha his realization of what he has done, not only directly to Mrs. Dempster but indirectly to Paul, triggers the suicidal wish which is already close to the surface in his mind. (Monk 154)
Therefore, guilt causes a downfall in Boy s life that cost him is own life. Although Boy felt a negative effect of guilt, the guilt of Paul Dempster shows some positive outcomes.
Paul Dempster, Mary Dempster s son, bears the guilt of taking his mother s sanity away from her, which turns his life for the better. Because of his birth, his mother slowly deteriorates and goes completely insane. His guilt for that is inevitable and his father makes sure of that. Through this passage, he reveals his guilt from childhood:
It was my birth that made her like that. My father thought it is his duty to tell me, so that I could do whatever was possible to make it up to her. My birth was what robbed her of her sanity. I was too young for the kind of guilt my father wanted me to feel; he had an extraordinary belief in guilt as an educative force. I couldn t stand it. I cannot feel guilt now. (Davies 267)
The guilt that he felt as a child has made him to be a stronger and independent person. The townspeople worsen his guilt by keeping a distance from him. The dislike so many people felt for his mother dislike for the queen and persistently unfortunate they attached to the unoffending son. (Monk 122) The disturbing society forces Paul to run away and join the circus in pursue of his dream to become a magician. With all the vengeance and hatred in his heart, he is able to leave his mother and concentrate hard to achieve his own goal. His uniqueness is described in this passage:
He was a novelty a poetic magician who took himself seriously. It was certainly not the role in which I had expected to reencounter Paul Dempster. But this was Paul, without a doubt, so self-assured, so polished, so utterly unlike the circus conjurer with the moustache and beard and shabby clothes
Paul is dignified at what he does and is determined to be successful unlike his parents. Because of his childhood guilt, he left home in search for a better life for himself. This leads to his accomplishments and strong character. Therefore, guilt can also play a good effect on characters lives such as Paul and Dunstan Ramsay.
The theme of guilt affecting one s life drastically can be seen best in the character Dunstan Ramsay. His life s devoted to relieving his guilt that he bears ever since the snowball accident. Dunstan feels that the snowball was meant to hit him, yet he ducked and changed Mrs. Dempster s life forever. His guilty conscience has brought many good things into hi life as well as others. In his teenage years, he is always made to do chores for Mrs. Dempster and take care of Paul. Within those years, he teaches Paul magic tricks and about Saint s lives. With the help of Dunstan, Paul blossoms to become a great magician and live a successful life. Furthermore, Dunstan also helps Mrs. Dempster live a stable life. Dunstan feels that they robbed her of her sanity and feels responsible for Mrs. Dempster s welfare for the rest of his life. Yes guilt. Staunton and I robbed your mother of her sanity. (Davies 269) And at the sate of 63, he has Mary s ashes in his living room as a form of piety. A sense of guilt unexpiated. Indolence. I have always been meaning to put them in some proper place but I haven t fount it yet. (Davies 269) He still feels guilt in his lfe yet this is what brought god things for Dunstan s life. He discovers goodness in himself to support Mrs. Dempster and how he searches deeply into religion and saints. Dunstan becomes a successful saints writer and also does Paul s autobiography for his show. His guilt has made him turn towards God for answers that made significant differences to others lives as well as his own. Ramsay learns about himself and who he is, through the ways in which he relates to others. And how theysee him. (Monk 24) It is because of his guilt that Ramsay so religiously assumes financial and personal responsibility for Mrs. Dempster. (Steinburg 324) The guilt eventually brings happiness and goodness into everyone s lives by allowing Dunstan to discover himself.
The theme guilt has affected the lives of three characters in Robertson Davies Fifth Business. The lives of Boy Staunton, Paul Dempster and Dunstan Ramsay are forever changed with the sense of guilt they feel. Their lives take a different course with the heavy burden of blame on their shoulders. In many Canadian novels, the theme of guilt has significantly affected the lives of the characters. This theme should be kept in mind for any readers to see that guilt can be taken either in a good or bad way. Guilt can allow oneself to discover about their true identity and their inner strength toe battle their own conscience. Either one can break when the pressure is on or bend around t in a good way.