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The Theme of Guilt in Fifth Business

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    Guilt in Fifth business In The Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies, Guilt is a theme that runs throughout both The Fifth Business and is a major force in one’s life. Davies demonstrates this by having one character feeling guilt while another who does not. Davies introduces the reader with Dunstan Ramsay and Percy Boyd Staunton. And Dunstan Ramsay and Percy Boyd Staunton are parallels to each other. Davies portrays the idea of competition through the relationship between Boy and Dunstan in their childhood, their military recognition, and their love for Leola.

    In this novel the theme of guilt is shown through the experiences of the characters as Dunstan felt guilty for the premature birth of Paul Dempster, Boy subconsciously felt guilty for the death of Leola, and Boy felt responsible for causing Mrs. Dempster to go insane. Guilt essentially is what drives the characters of Fifth Business and in the end determines the final conclusion. Lastly, although Boy and Dunstan are parallels of each other Davies uses their contrast in values, desire for control, and contrast in prosperity during youth.

    Their awkward relationship plays a major role in the elements that make Fifth Business such an interesting story. Hence, the story revolves around the idea of competition, guilt, and contrast between two similar yet different characters. The guilt felt by Dunstan altered the way he lives through his complete devotion for Mary Dempster. Dunstan’s guilt is the result of his religious upbringing. This guilt is caused by Percy Boyd Staunton when he throws the snowball that hits Mrs Dempster, resulting in her madness and Paul’s premature birth.

    Dunstan takes it upon himself to be the bearer of the guilt and feels responsible for the Dempster’s misery. Because of this burden of guilt, he commits his life to Mary Dempster. Dunstan handles the Dempster’s chores and cares for Mary and her son, Paul. By understanding Mrs Dempster, it no longer became a moral obligation to care for her but a deep sense of commitment that he placed on himself through his meetings with Mrs Dempster. Dunstan’s escape out of Deptford through the army, may have allowed him to temporarily leave his guilt behind, but Dunstan’s guilt still remains.

    He sees the face of Mary Dempster during his time of pain in war, through the statue of the Immaculate Conception, showing the guilt that he still holds onto dearly. After returning to Deptford, Dunstan commits himself to the care of Mrs Dempster again, “I visited Mrs. Dempster forty Saturdays every year and at Easter, Christmas and on her birthday in addition,” (Page182). Evidently, his guilt still lingers. On other can prove Guilt is a theme that runs throughout both The Fifth Business is Leola with his husband. Leola, Boy’s first wife was one of these people.

    Leola was born in Deptford as was Boy. They grew up together going to the same school, and fancied each other throughout the years. When Boy came back from the war, they fell in love, got married and remained that way until the day Leola Staunton killed herself. Throughout their marriage Boy wanted Leola to be something she could not. Leola tried hard to suit his lifestyle but eventually Boy realized that she was not what he wanted; “She was trying hard, but she could not keep pace with Boy’s social advancement”(page 151). As a result Boy began neglecting her and their children.

    The neglect grew and eventually Boy cheated on her. As the neglect grew, so did his guilt. When Leola eventually killed herself, his guilt grew so big he could not face it. This could be seen when Boy did not even attend her funeral. For this point we can know boy felt guilt for his wife dead, and we also know the theme of fifth business is about guilt. The last point for the theme of fifth business is guilt is boy felt responsible for causing Mrs Dempster to go insane, we know In his early childhood, Boy throws a paperweight concealed in a snowball at Mrs.

    Dempster. Towards the end of the book, Boy denies ever throwing the snowball at her, oblivious to the fact that Dunstable (Dunny) Ramsay was present at that time. The fact that a man of such grace and distinction like Boy Staunton denies the guilt of throwing the snowball that causes a dramatic change in the mental stability of Mrs. Dempster, as well as the birth of a premature child, Paul Dempster, angers one. Shortly after Mrs. Dempster’s assailant, Boy, throws the snowball at her, Dunny, unable to contain his own guilt, confronts Boy about the guilty deed.

    From those three points such as boy felt responsible for causing Mrs Dempster to go insane,Leola with his husband. Leola . Dunstan altered the way he lives through his complete devotion for Mary Dempster. Those areclearly the case present in Robertston Davies’ Fifth Business. Although Boy committed the crime, Dunstan feels a profound sense of guilt about the snowball incident. On the other hand, Boy obliterates his guilt. Guilt and lack of guilt can clearly be seen through character’s lives, relationships and philosophies.

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