The Development of Dunstan Ramsay in Fifth Business
Experiences refers to the nature of the events someone or something undergoes. Experiences is what is always happening to us and can change someone for better or for worse. Throughout the novel, Fifth Business the protagonist, Dunstan Ramsay goes through many experiences that help make him the person he becomes at the end of the story. According to Jungian analyst Anthony Stevens, individuation is the “process, simple or complex as the case may be, by which every living organism becomes what it was destined to become from the beginning” (Stevens, Private Myths, 139). With the concept of individuation Robertson Davies is able to create characters such as Mrs. Ramsay, Diana Marfleet, and Liesl Vitzliputzli to help mold, change, and fortify Dunstan into the person he is at the end of the story. By applying the Jungian theory of individuation and the ideas of character by Perrine, we are able to follow the development of Dunstan as he goes through life.
The first character to have a major influence in Dunstan’s development is his mother-Mrs. Ramsay. His mother is the first maternal influence he has and she helps to mold him into a person who takes control of his life. Even though she seems to love her son, she can be characterized by what Perrine calls indirect characterization; where her personality is revealed through her actions, and dialogue. By using Perrine’s method of indirect characterization, we can see that she is a determined, and strict mother whose feelings towards her son change over time. Through her actions we see that she shifts from a lovely parental role with the arrival of Paul Dempster. With the arrival of Paul we see the focus of her love change and isolation is coupled with the resentment she feels after the snowball incident. This is shown when Dunstan says, “I began to believe that I was more responsible for the birth of Paul Dempster than were his parents….Part of that dreadful fate would undoubtedly be rejection by my mother” (Davies 17). By him saying this we see Mrs. Ramsay’s attention and affection being focused towards Paul instead of her own son. This treatment toward Dunstan contributes to the first phase of individuation-the shadow. Mrs. Ramsay’s treatment is responsible for Dunstan’s inability to connect with women, which is an unconscious aspect of his personality which his conscious ego can not identify in itself.
Diana Marfleet is the first woman Dunstan get into a sexual relationship with, and with her being his first realistic love she ends up playing a very significant role in the development of Dunstan.We first meet Diana when she takes care of Dunstan when he is injured during the war. As the two characters relationship begins to detour from a friendly one into a sexual one, we see how Diana starts a change in Dunstan. She does this by giving him a new name, “ You’ll never get anywhere in the world named Dumbledum Ramsay” (Davies 92). This name change signifies Dunstan’s new view of life and his rebirth. Even though Diana helps him start a new chapter in his life, she can be characterized by what Perrine calls direct characterization, where her personality is revealed by what is said about her by other characters. By using Perinne’s method of direct characterization, we can she that is a loving, and overbearing person who contributes to Dunstan’s growth. By what is said about her we can see her shift from a lover to a motherly figure in the eyes of Dunstan, “She was too much of a mother to me and as I had one mother, and lost her, I was not a hurry to acquire another” (Davies 88). By him saying this we see Diana contributing to the second phase of individuation-the animus. Because of her acting like a mother than the sexual partner that he craves, she becomes responsible for the revealment of the normally dormant animus in Dunstan, which brings him one step closer to self-actualization.
The last character to have a lasting effect on Dunstan’s development is Liesl Vitzliputzli. Liesl is the first person in the novel to actually help Dunstan find his true self, which in turn fortifies him as a person. Even though Lisel seems like an unfriendly and ugly character she can be characterized by what Perrine calls indirect characterization, where her personality can be evident by her actions. By using this method of characterization, we can see that she the only person who cares about Dunstan’s well being. Liesl first appears in part five of the novel when Dunstan travels to Mexico City and ends up following a magic show. As their relationship evolves, we see how Lisel becomes Dunstan’s confidant, which begins with her trying to have sex with him. By her trying to seduce Dunstan, it opens the door for her to give him counsel and to shed light for Dunstan to realize that he never “leads a full life” and needs to take action. She introduces the concept of fifth business to him, “Who are you? Where do you fit into poetry and myth? Do you know who I think you are, Ramsay? I think you are Fifth Business” (Davies, 213).This is the last phase of Dunstan’s individuation process-the self. With the light shed over Dunstan by Liesl, he is finally able to fulfill his role in the surrounding people’s lives.
Throughout Robertson Davies Fifth Business, the protagonist Dunstan Ramsay goes through many experiences which help make him the person he is at the end of the novel. By using the jungian concept of individuation Davies is able to create different characters like Mrs. Ramsay, Diana Marfleet, and Liesl Vitzliputzli who end up intentionally or unintentionally molding, changing, and fortifying Dunstan.
Jung’s Psychology in Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
Many authors of award-winning novels usually seek inspiration from other sources to add to the greatness of their story. Robertson Davies, the author of the first installment of The Deptford Trilogy – Fifth Business is one of these authors. He incorporates many unique ideas which help the book progress nicely. Davies’ interest in psychology has heavily influenced a lot of the themes, and actions in the novel. By combining the characters in the book and the ideas of Carl Jung, Davies was able to create, arguably his best piece of literature. Many of the characters in the novel are based around the concepts of Jung. Among them, the protagonist, Dunstable Ramsay (renamed Dunstan Ramsay), has many of these ideas applied to him, particularly individuation and anima/animus. Through these Jungian concepts, Davies creates a protagonist who throughout the novel finds a way to evolve into the person he wants to be.
According to Jung individuation is the process of transforming one’s psyche by bringing the personal and collective unconscious into conscious. It is also the process that makes a human an individual. Throughout the novel we see Dunstan Ramsay’s individuation develop as he grows older and meets other people. The first stage of his individuation is when he is in his first relationship with a woman, named Diana Marfleet. As their relationship continues to progress, Dunstan rejects her because she is becoming too much like his mother rather than the partner he wants. Later in the novel, the meeting of the attractive Faustina fills the sexual void in Dunstan. As he lusts after Faustina, he builds a friendship with Liesl-the character with the biggest impact in his development. Liesl is the only person in the novel who truly understands Dunstan, and she gives him the opportunity to rediscover himself. Dunstan’s life begins with him having less weaknesses than others, and the weaknesses that he did possess were very limiting. He significantly reduces these throughout his life, for his and others benefits. This means that he made permanent and real progress to finding who he truly is.
Anima and animus is another one of Jung’s psychological theories that is used in Fifth Business. Jung describes both the anima and the animus as a part of the collective unconscious. Jung suggests that in the unconscious of males you can find the expressions of feminine inner personalities, this is the anima. Similarly, you can find expressions of masculine inner personalities in females, this being animus. Both transcending the personal psyche. Normally one is more dominant than the other, but a person can have both very strong anima and animus characteristics. In Fifth Business we see that Dunstan’s anima is present from the beginning of the novel. The guilt of the snowball hitting Mrs. Dempster stays with Dunstan for his whole life. This event causes him to adopt the mother archetype as he continues to take care of Mary until she dies. His animus is also evident in his character. It is dominant when he enlists in the army, and when he decides to rush the German machine gun nest all by himself. From the codominance of both his anima and animus, Dunstan is able to find out what he wants from life.
By using Jung’s psychology pertaining to Dunstan Ramsay, Davies is able to create a character who becomes who he strives to be. By meeting people like Mary, Diana, Faustina, and Liesl, it helps him in finally reaching his true self. Also, by Dunstan’s equally dominant anima and animus, he is able to rid himself of his guilt and finally start evolving into a better man.
Religion in the Novel Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
Religion plays a key role throughout the novel Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. As human nature forces one to believe in something bigger than itself in order to feel protected and in control. We need something to know that someone will always look after us and guide us. That’s where religion comes in to help us find that control. Religion is a set of beliefs that give life sense and answers all the important questions that science is unable to provide responses to. A psychologist, Carl Jung, believed there is a religious instinct in all human beings – an intrinsic striving towards a relationship with someone or something that transcends human power (a higher force or being).The theory mainly revolves around the idea of Individuation- discovering and accepting different sides of one self. Religion can widely be seen through Dunstan Ramsay’s quest of making Mary Dempster a Saint. With the help of Padre Blazon, Dunstan was able to realize a sense of self and a sense of religion while Mary helped Joel reach those senses. Religion is deeply involved in the novel as the recurring theme helps to develop the book as a whole by moving the plot, creating conflict, and developing characters, the book becomes more in depth. Throughout the novel, Fifth Business, religion is shown as a way to better oneself but also to find your true self. This is evident through; Mary Dempster performing a miracle to a tramp, Dunny’s quest on recognizing Mary as a Saint, and Dunny coming in terms with his psyche as Mary is concluded to be a “fool-Saint”.
Mary Dempster plays an important part in the novel as she is seen as a Saint to not only Dunny. A Saint being a person who is recognized as having a degree of holiness or closeness to God. Mary is claimed to have done 3 miracles, first being reforming a tramp. Joel is the tramp who was facing a low time in life full of abuse and homelessness until he met Mary Dempster, who changed his life. “They turned me loose next morning, and I ran out of that town laughing and shouting like the man who was delivered from devils by Our Lord. As I had been, you see. He worked through that woman, and she is a blessed Saint, for what she did for me- I mean it as I say it- a miracle” (Davies, 127). In this passage Joel states how he claims Mary is a Saint for the act she had done for him. This was when Mary gave the tramp what he wanted, which was sexual intercourse. This completely turns his life around and Joel later embraces Christianity. Mary did not question if that act was morally correct or not. As Carl Jung believed religion is a way that aids to complete a person as a whole, Mary’s consensual act of sex had changed a person as a whole. With this, Mary the Saint gave the tramp what he wanted, it completes him and makes him become what he was destined to become from the beginning. This is how the tramp comes about to what he is, Joel Surgeon. This act turns him in a devout and generous Christian to run a charity center for the homeless so people don’t face what he has been through. Mary’s act makes a character believe she is a Saint but also makes him a religious being.
Dunny meets with an elderly Jesuit named Padre Blazon as he is on a quest to making Mary Dempster a Saint. Blazon takes a very different view of sainthood than Father Regan, a priest who Dunny talks to. Blazon says“What good would it do you if I told you she was indeed a saint? I cannot make saints, nor can the pope. We can only recognize saints when the plainest evidence shows them to be saintly.” (Davies, 165) Blazon thinks Sainthood should be able to be determined by any person, not just one individual being the Pope of Rome. This means if a person believes that Mary Dempster is a Saint, then in a sense she really is. This philosophy is much more different and sees it as faith. Throughout the book Dunstan being overly obsessed with Mary Dempster. He knows that whatever he is doing is very important to him because he is very over possessive of her, because he’s very much in love with her. Even when people dismiss the idea of her being a Saint, he listens to them, but doesn’t take their advice. Father Regan is an example of this. He tells Dunny how he is “…hypnotized by the idea that three miracles makes a saint” and she is ‘a poor woman who is far astray in her wits and don’t know right from wrong” (Davies, 131). Regan also dismisses the idea of her being a Saint, and calls her simple. The more Dunny is rejected about Mrs. Dempster, the more he is interested in knowing more and completing his quest of faith. This is how Dunny’s life is changed. His quest to recognizing Mary not only aids in his self recognition but brings him closer to a faith and religion to believe. This is a phase of Dunny’s individuation process as Mary is his spiritual development making him explore himself and his life.
Padre Blazon plays a big role in Dunny’s quest to making Mary a Saint. He is the one who understood Dunny and supported his beliefs of Mary Dempster being a Saint claiming her as a “fool-saint”. Padre says “I have been thinking about your fool-saint and what I conclude is this: she must have been an extraordinary person, a great lover of God, and trusting greatly in His love for her.” (Davies, 238). This is while Padre is on his deathbed, telling Dunny how he has thought about Mary and agrees how she is a Saint after all. With the help of Padre Blazon, Dunny came to terms with his psyche and faith. Padre explained to Dunstan that Mrs. Dempster’s sanity may have been sacrificed to God for a reason and that his should not concern himself with this burden as much as he was. Dunstan found Mary more important than his mother to himself. This is one of the steps to Dunny completing himself as a very wise person has concluded that his faith in Mary is true.
In this novel, Fifth Business, religion was shown as a mechanism to not only better oneself, but to also find your true self. This was showcased through; Mary Dempster performing a miracle to a tramp, Dunny’s quest on recognizing Mary as a Saint, and Dunny coming in terms with his psyche as Mary is concluded to be a fool-saint. Religion is a set of beliefs or a philosophy that makes people believe in a greater force than them. Religion is needed in everyday lives in order to keep everything in order. The book posits that, in coming to find and know our own personal faiths, we come to find and know ourselves. Robertson Davies uses religion and faith as a key theme in his novel, Fifth Business. The author does so when he illustrates how religion affects most aspects of our lives; how it drives the character’s lives and the way it reflects the society. These elements prove that religion is a major theme in the book.
Fifth Business by Robertson Davies: The Jungian Archetypes
Jungian Archetypes in Fifth Business
In Jungian psychology, archetypes are highly developed elements of the collective unconscious. Some of the archetypes described by Carl Jung are the Self, the Shadow, the Anima and Animus, the Devil, the Wise Old Man and Virgin Mary. In his novel, Fifth Business, Robertson Davies addresses the meaning of life by exploring Jungian archetypes. The novel explores the life of the narrator, Dunstan Ramsay. The novel describes the implications of one single moment, which forces the characters over the next sixty years to confront their personal devil. The characters in Fifth Business resemble important archetypal characters of Jungian psychology. Liesl, Paul’s business partner resembles the Shadow’s archetype. Also, Padre Blazon, a member of the Jesuit Bollandistes, the group who welcomes and aids Dunstan in his European saint research, has traits which resemble the archetypal Wise Old Man. Moreover, Mary Dempster, Paul Dempster’s mother and Dunstan’s saint represents the archetypal Sacred Feminine or Virgin Mary. Thus the Jungian archetypes used in Fifth Business by Robertson Davies play a major role in the shaping of the characters in the readers’ minds.
Out of all the archetypal characters in Fifth Business, Liesl plays a very important role by helping Dunstan to get rid of his guilt. Dunstan Ramsay carries the weight of Paul Dempster’s premature birth on his shoulders his entire life. It is only because of Liesl, an extremely elegant and intelligent woman confined inside a deformed and gigantic body, Dunstan experiences happiness and ultimately a life well lived. Liesl’s surname is “Vitzliputzli”, which means “devil”. In Jungian terms, one’s “devil” refers to one’s shadow, the “suppressed part of the personality, the dark or more primitive side of the consciousness.” Thus, Liesl represents Dunstan’s shadow, all that he suppresses from his ego; all that he hides from the world. According to Jung, an “ego which refuses for long to recognize the existence and force of its shadow is inviting disruption.” Therefore, the shadow invades the consciousness until the conscious recognizes the opposing force and comes to terms with it. This is one way of coming to know one’s self. This is why Liesl is the most influential and important mentor, because she challenges Dunstan to stop suppressing his shadow so he can find out and come to terms with who he is. “But you – there is a whole great price of your life that is unlived, denied, set aside. That is why at fifty you can’t bear it any longer and fly all to pieces and pour out your heart to the first really intelligent woman you have met – me…This is the revenge of the unlived life, Ramsay. Suddenly it makes you a fool…You should take a look at this side of your life you have not lived…But every man has a devil…you must get to know your personal devil.” (Davies, 217). It is clearly evident from the quote that Liesl wants to change Dunstan for the better and from the revenge of the unlived life when she tells him to come to know his devil. She asks Dunstan to “shake hands with [his] devil”(Davies, 213). Liesl understands Dunstan much better than anyone else and she forces upon him many self- realizations, which help Dunny to get rid of his guilt regarding Paul’s premature birth that he has been carrying on for a long while. Thus Liesl is Dunstan’s shadow and the archetypal Shadow who helps Dunstan with his life.
Another important archetypal character described in Fifth Business is that of the Wise Old Man, which is portrayed by Padre Blazon. Padre Blazon functions in Dunstan’s personal groups of archetypes as the image of the Wise Old Man. He is present for a reason, to aid Dunstan in his quest for wholeness. Padre Blazon, in his knowledge and and experience, is one of the wisest characters in the novel. Padre, just like Liesl, forces some self- realizations into Dunny. Dunstan receives not only religious advice, but also spiritual and psychological advice. Blazon asks Dunstan to analyze Mary Dempster. “Who is she in your personal world? What figure is she in your personal mythology?”(Davies, 169). “If you think her a saint, she is a saint to you…That is what we call the reality of the soul; you are foolish to demand the agreement of the world as well” (165). He makes Dunstan realize his mistake. He makes him realize that he does not need the agreement of the world to prove that Mrs. Dempster is a saint to him. “I think you are a fool to fret that she was knocked on the head because of an act of yours. Perhaps that was what she was for, Ramezay….Maybe God wants you for something special. Maybe so much that you are worth a woman’s sanity” (169). Through this, Blazon attempts to diminish unjustified guilt that Dunstan has been carrying with him for so long. In turn, Blazon supplies Dunstan with another vital piece of advice that serves as a fundamental stepping stone to Dunstan’s wholeness. Forgive yourself for being a human creature, Ramezay. That is the beginning of wisdom; that is part of what is meant by the fear of God; and for you it is the only way to save your sanity” (170). He tells Dunstan to forgive himself for being human. Thus Padre Blazon is the Wise Old Man of Dunstan’s life, who guides him religiously, spiritually and psychologically.
Mary Dempster is one of the most intriguing characters in the novel. Mary Dempster resembles the archetypal Sacred Feminine- the figure of a woman who resembles the Virgin Mary. She is saintly and pure at heart. She is described as pure due to the three miracles she performs in the novel- the first one being the transformation of the tramp. “He was very civil …he wanted it so badly”(Davies, 48). After the affair with the tramp, the tramp changes his life for the better and spends his life in the service of others. She also appears in the battle field, before Dunstan goes into a coma. “..Crowned Woman in Revelation- she who had the moon beneath her feet and was menaced by the Red Dragon. But what hits [him] worse than the blow of the shrapnel was that the face [is] Mrs. Dempster’s face.”(Davies, 70). She appears on the battlefield and perhaps it is because of her that Dunstan’s life is saved. Also, Mary Dempster brings back Willie, Dunstan’s brother from the mouth of death, which is a miracle. “For [him], Willie’s recall from death is, and will always be Mrs. Dempster’s [third] miracle.”(Davies, 56). As evident from the quote, Dunstan finds Mary’s actions to be miracles. Thus Mrs. Dempster resembles the Virgin Mary who is pure and saintly, performing miracles to improve other people’s lives.
Thus Davies, in Fifth Business, uses Jungian archetypes in order to shape his characters. Liesl- the Shadow, Padre Blazon- the Wise Old Man and Mary Dempster- the Sacred Feminine are just a few examples of the Jungian archetypes portrayed in the novel. There are a lot more such examples like Diana, the Mother figure and Boy Staunton, the Trickster. Therefore, jungian archetypes have an important place in the novel, Fifth Business.
Conventions of Reality in Fifth Business and an Encounter and The Dead
Albert Camus once wrote, “Unless we choose to ignore reality, we must find our values in it.” More often, as human nature, one goes through a period of epiphany where they embark on a journey where they recognize reality and the flaws which reside within it. In the novel Fifth Business by Robertson Davies and in the short stories “An Encounter” and “The Dead” in Dubliners by James Joyce, this similar journey is taken part by the main characters, as they are able to become aware of the entrapment caused by living through conventionality. They yearn for escape to discover the value of the essence which is lacking in their lives; however, while Dunsten devotes his life to become an individual, the characters within Dubliners base their lives off of following conventionality. Through self-individuation, one must identify and break away from the conventions of reality to establish one’s own essence in life.
The conventional views upheld by the society spirals one’s life into a state of entrapment. One becomes both physically and psychologically trapped because their lives lack freedom, as they are forced to follow everything through strict guidelines. In Fifth Business, this is portrayed through the description of Deptford’s citizens as they prefer to keep their traditional culture and isolate characters who reside outside their traditional ways. For example, Mrs Dempster is labelled as simple for having “having delicacy of hair that was uncommon”, “unable to carry normal motherly tasks”, although she came from wealthy family, where she had little to no responsibility. They become strict on how people should function in the town and falsely label her, overlooking possible reasons which may have caused her to remain at a state. Having unique deficiencies becomes an unacceptable aspect in town. In addition, the description of Deptford itself exemplifies the confinement within the town as it is described having the “walls of Jerusalem”. Literally, Deptford is enclosed from its surroundings signifying how they desire a lack of change.
The barrier becomes a representation of the mindset of its citizens and limiting the knowledge in Deptford. Within the town’s library, ironically, there is a ban placed o “Saints and magic”, disallowing knowledge which may potentially threat the state of the town both present and the future. Similarly, this is portrayed through the short story “An Encounter”, as Dillon is warned by the priest to stay away from Indian books while enforcing him to learn Roman History at school. This relates to the similar concept of limiting knowledge as ironically, teachers are discouraging children to explore new concepts in life. Rather, they promote the children to continue learning history, symbolic of how they are essentially encouraging the children to remain within the passive state portraying how they desire the children to retain the traditional Roman Catholic culture through their lives. As children are told their limitations on knowledge, they lack a sense of freedom; having no control over their own lives and them life resides in a state of paralysis, like the people within Deptford. As Dunsten recalls these memories of the past while the children become “confused with a puffy face” from the teacher’s actions, they are able to identify the absurdity behind the social conventionality leading their lives to paralysis.
Through identifying the social conventionality, one becomes increasingly isolated as one long for escape. This journey of escape becomes the start of the self-individuation, the separation from humanity, where they break out of social conventionality and gain self-knowledge. In Fifth business, this is portrayed through the social isolation as Dunsten becomes “longing for escape” the more time he spends with Mrs. Dempster. He begins to perceive things from different perspective, the perspective seen through Mrs. Dempster rather than the Deptford way. Thus, the “passing of time, brings in more isolations”, as he becomes physically detached from society, working in a secluded library, alienated by his colleagues and his family. As Dunsten spends more time with Mrs. Dempster, his relationship with his mother breaks off as well as his social status within his school, where his becomes only a “nuisance”. The more Dunsten wants to retract from the Deptford culture; he no longer becomes a functional citizen of Deptford and an outsider.
In the end, he has no purpose to remain in Deptford and created like an impostor by his friends and family, instead of “showing virtue, dignity and even of nobility” that makes up Deptford’s pride. Likewise, in Dubliners, in both “The Dead” and “An Encounter”, the characters suffer isolation as a result of their desire for escape from the conventional world. “Hungering again for wild sensation for the escape”, and the narrator’s escape to the island, signify the social isolation as he detracts from the society overrun by the Roman Catholic and the further he goes, he confronts a more illusive world filled with “biscuits and chocolate” and “hills”. These jovial aspects represent how they have been released and isolated from the harsh society back at the school and the freedom, represented through the objects, that they have finally uncovered, Similarly, in “The Dead”, as Gabriel is struck by the epiphany of the death of his wife’s ex-lover, as he himself goes through the process of self-individuation, he becomes psychologically isolated. The “air in his room is chilled” with everything “one by one becoming shades”, portraying the darkness he resides in, in which is not only a separation from his wife physically but also from his conscious self. As he is confronts with the darkness, it depicts how he is in contact with his subconscious mind and in deep contemplation. As these characters go through the process of self-individuation and become isolated, they are met with the option of reverting back to living through conventionality or continuing to escape from it. This choice becomes essential to whether one finds one’s values or not.
One must overcome the isolation and overcome the conventionality of reality in order to establish one’s own essence in life. By preventing oneself from being influence by the society to revert back to living through conventions, one is able to break out of paralysis and establish oneself as an individual. For example, in Fifth Business, Dunsten continued to strive to be unique, apart from the citizens of Deptford and gain knowledge on aspects that were restricted in Deptford. As a result, Dunsten was able to become “a man in appearance”, depicting the physical growth upon continuing to establish himself as an individual.
Furthermore, changing his name from Dunstable to Dunsten becomes symbolic of his growth. His name-change depicts how he breaks the little ties he has left which associates himself with Deptford, symbolic of the actions he takes in order to establish his own individual self. In the end, Dunsten is able to become more psychologically aware and spiritual to the extent that he is able to release himself from the guilt of the snowball incident. However, in Dubliners, the characters revert back to the social conventions. In “The Dead”, Gabriel’s own identity fades out” and he yearns to walk into the snow, “on his journey westward” as he desires to follow the direction of the wind and follow a life of conventionality which will lead him to snow, symbolic of the empty life which await him. His identifies the world as “grey and impalpable” but as he reverts back to returning to this world, it portrays how his life will be the same, lacking any essence. Unlike Dunsten, he regresses in both spiritual and psychological growth as the society has control over him rather than himself and ultimately, he would become soulless. While Dunsten’s life blossoms, the character’s lives in Dubliners lives’ lack meaning, controlled by society and ultimately, their lives are halt, in a state of paralysis.
One must break out of the entrapment created through social conventions in order to establish one’s own essence in society. In both Fifth Business and Dubliners, characters lives were over-run by conventions and through a distinct epiphany; they were able to recognize the need for escape. However, while Dunsten was able to continue his journey of escaping from conventions and establishing himself as an individual, the characters in Dubliners returned to the ways of the society and their lives ultimately lacked meaning. Ultimately, while Dunsten’s life is “complete”, the characters in Dubliners await a similar fate to Percy Boyd, a character in Fifth Business who devoted his life to following the conventions of materialism. Each character is fated to die unless they are able to find their values, of the need to establish one’s own essence
Boy Staunton and Abigail Williams: Similarities between Davies’ and Miller’s Characters
Everyone has their own desires and how they act on how they try to acquire those wants depend on each individual and on which unconscious archetype they rely on. Carl Jung presents the idea of Jungian Archetypes in which he explores where individuals try to based their decisions on. Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible published in 1970 and 1953, respectively, explore the lives of the characters that have lived or once lived in a small town. The two literary works analyze how the unfolding of the events affect the personality and traits of each character. A character analysis from both works enable one to connect and relate the similar characteristics with each other. This is evident in the two novels as Boy Staunton and Abigail exhibit similar traits in which they are driven by their ids throughout their own stories, but ultimately, their actions differ in how they drive the plot and affect the story. Boy abuses his own power so to get what he wants, both in terms of business and his personal life and is also seen in The Crucible when Abigail, along with some of the other girls from her village, prepare a potion in the middle of a forest as they plan to seduce and lure the men they covet after. The two characters are portrayed in their stories such that they are motivated by their own desires, even lacking in guilt and compassion, but Boy and Abigail are seen to have varying incentives, resulting in different outcomes.
Among all the characters in The Crucible, it is not debatable how Abigail Williams is seen as the antagonist as she sets the problem in the play at the start when it was told that she was seen casting a spell in the middle of the forest. Abigail’s motivation for casting a spell, hoping for Elizabeth Proctor to die so to have John Proctor for herself, is an example of how one’s pleasures are driven by id. Abigail acts based on her instincts and without thinking anything through, or rather, her willingness to acquire something she wishes surpasses that of her morals and conscience. Abigail resorts to a practice that contradicts everything her town’s values represent. She does not think of the consequences that would befall upon her if she were to be caught practicing a ritual in a town that values religion determinedly. The fact that Abigail practices witchcraft in a town that follows only the readings of God in an attempt to seduce John Proctor is an evidence of acting based on one’s id. Abigail’s first motivation in the play is to tempt John Proctor and lure him into a relationship with her by casting a spell on his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, that would result in her death. Abigail’s decision for her actions are immediately and directly responded by her instincts.
In the midst of all the chaos regarding the witchcraft incident in the town of Salem, Abigail is seen to be hiding from her lies. She is afraid of what would happen if she were to get caught. In order to save herself from what would appear as her downfall, she starts accusing innocent citizens of practicing witchcraft. Instead of confessing and telling the truth, Abigail digs a deeper hole for herself and her lies, further pushing the possibilities of making the whole witchcraft issue a bigger one. Abigail’s motivation for accusing the innocent people from her town is due to the fact that she does not want to get caught; she reacts on impulse forgetting the consequences that would unfold due to her actions. Abigail chooses to side with her id, even if means sacrificing the innocence of other people and this is so she could get away without experiencing the punishment she rightfully deserve.
At the start of the play, Abigail’s main purpose in the story is to seduce John Proctor and relive the life she had before she was kicked out of the Proctors’ home- she wants a relationship with John. Abigail reacts on her id and chooses to cast a spell on Elizabeth Proctor. As the play progresses, Abigail’s incentive shifts from her doing anything she feels she needs to do, like casting a spell on Elizabeth, so that she could get what she wants to accusing others of practicing witchcraft because she does not want to get caught. Throughout the play, Abigail’s actions are based on how she does not follow her ego or superego- she rejects the morals that would have possibility in changing the outcomes of each scenes and scenarios in the play-, but rather, she chooses to take a risky path, and in which she believes that she would get what she wants.
One often feels confused about when to continue being ambitious and wish for more and knowing what should be enough. Boy Staunton comes from the richest family in his town, Deptford. Growing up, Boy wishes to increase his family’s riches and states that he wants to be wealthier than his dad. In the road to being wealthy, Boy completely abandons any morals and ethics that makes a human human. Boy’s motivation throughout his life is to be a successful person and rise up the social ladder. However, his dream doesn’t end there. He desires for more, and he does not feel content with what he has. As a result, Boy ends up hurting her wife and the people around him and he does not see the mistakes he has done.
Leola Staunton is a victim of both Boy and the society’s social standards. Boy Staunton, a character in what seems to be a product of the society’s corrupt expectations, is encouraged, throughout the whole story, to be a person with an accomplished image. In his effort to fit the image of a successful person, Boy conforms to that of the society’s expectations, and forces his wife, Leola, to do the same. Boy’s willingness to be seen as a successful person takes a toll on his personality as he starts to rely on his id most of the time. Boy firstly pushes Leola to fit what he thinks is an ideal woman based on his interpretation of the social standards: “[Leola] had toiled at the lessons in bridge, mah-jongg, golf, and tennis; she had plodded through the Books-of-the-Month, breaking down badly in Kristin Lavransdatter; she had listened with mystification to gramophone records of Le Sacre du Printemps and with the wrong kind of enjoyment to Ravel’s Bolero but nothing made any impression on her,” (Davies 140) Dunstan narrates. Unwilling to give up on Leola’s image, Boy takes it upon himself to change Leola’s personality and interests. Boy makes his decision based on his id and does not think for a second as to what the outcome of his actions would be and how it affects the person close to him; his priority lies on getting others to perceive him as a person of importance.
A truth in which some people may relate to is the fact that admitting one’s own mistakes is difficult; it can be due to the fact that we do not want to admit that we did something wrong and feel guilty. However, admitting to mistakes is what makes a person grow, one knows more about himself and gains the opportunity to learn from them. However, this concept does not apply to Boy Staunton, as throughout his life, he has not once admitted to any of his mistakes. During his last interaction with Dunny and Eisengrim, Dunny encourages Boy to admitting that he did hit Mrs. Dempster with the snowball and that it was he who caused a premature birth during the time. Boy denies the fact, which in analysis, he chooses to react based on his id. Boy does not want to feel guilty as he sees himself to be innocent throughout his life. He reacts quickly on instinct, denying all accusations.
Although Abigail’s and Boy’s actions are similar in a way that they are both driven by their ids, their actions differ in how their ids play a role in their purpose and motivation in their respective stories. Abigail reacts on her id, casting spells to cause a misfortune upon some else’s life and then accusing others of practicing witchcraft as she does not want to face her punishments. On the other hand. Boy Staunton bases his decision on what he wants, ignoring other people’s feelings. In addition, Boy does not admit to any of his mistakes because he does not think it seems fit for someone of his social class to have done any wrongdoings throughout his life. Boy relies on his id and in willing to do so, he achieves one of his goals but he suffers from the vice that comes along with success and the feeling of discontentment. Boy’s situation is a contrast in regards to Abigail’s story. Boy achieves his dream of being rich, however he does not feel content with what he has. Furthermore, he wants Leola to fit the image of her ideal woman, and in return, she loses all feelings of satisfaction and becomes numb, resulting in her death. Abigail’s motivation of bewitching Elizabeth fails as evident in the story, which unfolds a series of events, including the questioning of who practices witchcraft in Salem. Abigail denies all accusations that fall upon her because she does not want to get caught. In the end, she suffers a loss as John Proctor, her main goal, is subject to public execution. This symbolizes the end of Abigail’s main dream and motivations. Boy and Abigail, both seemingly the antagonists in their own stories, react based on their ids and in return, they and the people around them suffer from their own actions.
Scared of the feeling that others will see our individual weaknesses, it is inevitable for us sometimes to avoid the violence and threats in our actions. However, we should know when to stop and acknowledge what should be acknowledged. Boy Staunton and Abigail Williams exhibit a trait that can be interpreted as a result of reacting based on one’s id. Boy and Abigail both use force and threatening actions to get what they want. Although in doing so, the two characters still drive the plot in a different direction that sets the two literature works apart from each other. Additionally, it raises questions whether the plot moves on differently if the characters were to not depend on their impulses.
Leola Staunton, Boy Staunton’s wife, is a victim of Boy’s selfishness and self-centredness. Boy wants Leola to fit a certain image and in doing so, he harms her physically, mentally, and emotionally. Boy’s actions take a toll on Leola’s health, resulting in what seems to be her end. All of Boy’s actions ultimately affect his family, including his children. The neglect that his children face grows to be a danger in their relationship as his son, David Staunton, feels a deep resentment towards him as he grows up. His relationship with his first family affects that of his relationship with Denyse Hornick and her child, Lorene. Lorene is the butt of the jokes during Boy’s and Denyse’s wedding; David and Caroline make fun of Lorene and in the end, she feels the exhaustion, which takes a toll on her health. If not for Boy’s cruelness, a different outcome would be a possibility for Leola. A possibility in which she thrives and learn to do things for herself. Boy’s irresponsible actions is a matter that is concerning even beyond through how he chooses to act based on his impulses. Boy does not feel guilty whatsoever.
Boy’s lack of guilt towards people is carried within him when Dunny confronts him regarding the snowball incident. Boy is stubborn in trying to deny all of what he thinks he did and did not do. A possibility of Boy coming into terms with reality and accepting the fact that he is not a god would result in the story to have a much different story plot. Boy could grow to be a person of dignity and of decency. However, Boy, throughout his whole life, chooses to act on his id and be greedy.
During the start of The Crucible, the girls who accompanied Abigail into the forest panic as the question of witchcraft is raised upon the citizens in the room, so as a result, Abigail threatens them, “And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!” (Miller 20) Abigail is seen to be using force and threats to silence the girls so that she doesn’t get caught. Another product that comes from Abigail reacting on her id is that she is able to gain power over people. In the following events, the girls follow everything Abigail does because they are afraid of her. The girls are afraid of saying anything because of the threat and power that Abigail holds. One can ask whether the same situations would happen if Abigail does not use her id but rather chooses to act based on her ego or superego and just confess.
As the play goes on and the witch hunt develops in a harsher situation, Abigail continues to accuse citizens of practicing witchcraft. Abigail accuses those who she sees as a threat and the court seems to follow along, as they can not fully investigate a case that would be able to present a proof. Abigail lacks compassion as she accuses people out of revenge and cowardice. She accuses a variety of characters, from minor roles to even the protagonist of the story: Tituba, Giles and Martha Corey, Goody Osborne, and John Proctor and many more. Abigail’s actions that are driven by that of her id advances the plot in a shocking way and in which it reveals the values of the society of that time period. Abigail manages to take out those who comes in her way, and in which John Proctor is not an exception. Looking back on how this could have all been resolved, one asks whether everything would go smoothly if she were to confess first. Most likely, the accused whose names are stated above would still be alive. Abigail, not willing to confess is an example of how one chooses to act on impulse, as a result, driving the plot in a direction where no one knows what the outcome would be.
Boy Staunton and Abigail Williams, due to their instinctive actions, drives the plot of their stories differently. Boy Staunton abuses his wife and neglects his children and as a result, Leola dies and his children grow a feeling of resentment towards him. Furthermore, Boy still lacks the feeling of guilt, when confronted about his mistakes. On the other hand, Abigail threatens the girls she was with so to silence them up and protect herself from any accusations of witchcraft. She, then, continues to accuse people who she feels threatened by. She does not feel anything, even as she sends people to be subject to public execution as it does not concern her, but only benefits her. In this case, Abigail’s id is more concern for herself rather than confessing the truth.
Ultimately, Boy Staunton and Abigail Williams act on their id, however, their characters on their story differ in what their motivations are and how they affect and advance the plot. That being said, the two characters additionally does not share the same outcome. Boy and Abigail both achieve one of their goals; Boy achieving the success that he desires and Abigail to not get caught as a person who practiced witchcraft.
As the conclusion of The Crucible comes to a close, John Proctor is eventually accused of practicing witchcraft. He gets a choice of whether he pleads guilty and gets his name publicized for everyone to know that he is a witch or he denies the accusation and gets executed publicly. In the end, Proctor keeps his individuality and chooses to get executed instead. Abigail cannot do anything by this point so she loses sight of what seems to be her dream in the first place. The problem of the play revolves around the society of Salem and their values. The problem starts when Abigail wants to cast a spell on Elizabeth Proctor so to have John Proctor for herself. Along the way, Abigail acts on her impulses, thinking not much through about the consequences so she, too, suffers in the end as she is not able to achieve her main goal. Abigail lacks guilt even as she sees Proctor on his way to his own execution.
Conclusively, Boy Staunton, during his last interaction with Dunny and Eisengrim, feels cornered as he is suddenly bombarded with information that he admits he has forgotten. Boy Staunton still does not feel guilty about the snowball incident as he tells Dunstan that he forgets anything that would be irrelevant to his success and his rising as a person of high social class. The day after their interaction, Dunstan narrates that Boy dies in his car which was found underwater. As the readers hear about this news, the information as to how and why he dies is left unknown. The police finds a stone in Boy’s mouth and the evidence all points to Eisengrim. From being a spoiled child to a self-centred grown man, Boy does not shift away from the fact that he still does not feel any compassion for the people he has hurt. Numerous questions rise from Boy’s death that would relate to how his actions are almost always based on his id. One can ask if he ever realizes how he abuses people and takes advantage of them; or if he ever feels regret for all the things he has done; and finally, if he ever did want to change his way of living.
Boys Staunton and Abigail Williams, although their actions are both driven by ids, the outcomes of their stories remain different. Abigail does not achieve her goal of being in a relationship with John Proctor and Boy Staunton meets his end, even having left many unanswered questions. As a result of their actions, Boy and Abigail are left with affecting the lives of different individuals, mostly in a negative way.
Robertson Davies applies the different archetypes and the Collective Unconscious on his novel, much that it is visible for the readers to analyze the characters in which they exhibit the traits belonging to the respective archetype. The id is the impulsive and unconscious part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to our instincts. Boy Staunton and Abigail Williams are example of characters that display these traits. Throughout The Crucible and Fifth Business, we explore how the id plays a part on the characters such as Boy and Abigail. Even though Boy and Abigail symbolizes the id in their stories, they ultimately play a distinct role, visible in their differing motives and purposes, how the story advances in which their actions take a role in, and how much different their outcomes are. Had both Boy Staunton and Abigail Williams not react on the instinctive component of their personalities, would they have been able to grow as persons with dignity and morals? Would they be able to fulfill their goals in which no other people are harmed because of their actions?
The Life Values in “Boy” by P. Staunton
Though some may appraise the worth of a life on the basis of intrinsic values, the qualitative nature of such values themselves makes it difficult to make an objective comparison. The value of a life, then, is best defined through the yardstick of the quantifiable: measures like material wealth, overall accomplishments and the contributions that an individual makes to society at large. Percy “Boy” Staunton best fulfills this description in the world of Fifth Business. As a business savvy tycoon and later as the Minister of Food during the Second World War, Percy’s contributions and hand in guiding the Canadian economy far outweigh the value of Dunstan’s own contributions to the academic sphere. He was also instrumental in the life of Dunstan Ramsay himself, to whom he provided the “financial advice and…modest financial security” (Cameron 92) necessary to finance Dunstan’s expeditions across the globe. Even in his personal life, the combination of Dunstan’s social ineptitude and Percy’s natural extroversion gave Percy a social edge, thereby exposing him to a world of things Dunstan never had the opportunity to experience. Though Dunstan accumulated a wealth of experience in Deptford and in his treks across the globe, it is easy to see how Percy “Boy” Staunton lived a life of greater value by all quantifiable measures.
According to American academic Leo Calvin Rosten, “The purpose of life is to be useful…it is, above all, to matter and to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” In Fifth Business, Percy Boy Staunton embodied this definition in ways Dunstan never did, and made significant contributions to the welfare of average Canadians “though not many people knew it” (Davies 141). As the president and managing director of Alpha Corporation, and later as the Ministry of Food under the Coalition Cabinet, Percy was single-handedly responsible for keeping the country fed during its times of greatest need. During the Great Depression, for instance, Percy “held the price of bread steady” (Davies 142) and “concentrated on necessities…in times like these, people need cheap, nourishing food.” (Davies 142). He later applied a similar principle as the Minister of Food in the Second World War, and “put the full resources of his Alpha Corporation…to the job of feeding Canada (and) feeding its armed services” (Davies 182). By contrast, Dunstan dedicated his entire life to hagiography (the study of saints), which, though commendable, is of little if any value to the general public. The triviality of Dunstan’s contributions is highlighted by his colleagues’ indifference to “his acceptance from Analecta; (who) looked uncomprehendingly, like cows at a passing train, and went on talking about Brebner’s extraordinary hole-in-one the day before” (Davies 158). Though Percy’s alimentary achievements may not have had the same level of intellectual insight Dunstan’s notes on Wilgefortis-Kummernis so required, Percy’s shrewd and innovative practices in the food industry were certainly of greater value to the general populace than Dunstan’s ever were.
Even if a reader were to place greater importance on Dunstan’s accomplishments, one could argue that “Dunstan’s outer journey is made largely through the effect on him of his relation to Percy Boyd Staunton” (Cameron 92). As his confidant and sole financial advisor, Dunstan depended on Percy’s investment advice for his continued financial stability, which he drew upon to satiate his academic hunger and travels around the world. Under Percy’s guidance, Dunstan “laid the foundation for the modest but pleasant fortune I have now…without his guidance I would have been powerless” (Davies 105) and was made “pretty well-off for a man in your position” (Davies 254). Dunstan’s interest in medieval religious art and hagiology blossomed from his plentiful monetary reserves – courtesy of Percy – which he used to pursue saints in “scores of churches through the Low Countries, France, Austria and Italy” (Davies 115). From that point onwards, a snowball effect (pun intended) ensued: Dunstan began writing books based on the research gathered during his journeys and successfully published three books over the course of his literary and teaching career. Dunstan later travelled to Mexico on the Chairman of the Board’s (Percy’s) goodwill, where Eisengrim’s aide Liesl commissioned him to write Eisengrim’s autobiography with the style and “candour that is brilliantly disingenuous, treating marvels with the seriousness of fact” (Davies 202) that had come to characterize his other literary works. The success of the autobiography allowed Dunstan “to transfer Mrs. Dempster from the public wards of that hateful city asylum to a much better hospital near a small town” (Davies 220). It is important to note that all of the above are the direct result of Percy’s financial advice, who acted as the fiscal catalyst of Dunstan’s accomplishments and without whom such accomplishments would have been impossible to achieve.
Some may argue, however, that Percy lived a life of lesser value and served only to facilitate Dunstan’s jaunts across the globe. This could not be farther from the truth. A natural extrovert and keen on living the high life, Percy flourished in his personal life experiences well before becoming a member of Canada’s elite, while Dunstan wallowed in mediocrity and lived a life of lonely solitude. It was clear, for instance, that Percy was the more accomplished of the two in love. Percy married Leola after the First World War, before Dunstan had the opportunity to profess his love for her; naturally, Dunstan “resented anybody else having her…and God forbid that I should pretend that there is not a generous measure of spite in my nature” (Davies 94). While Dunstan remained a schoolteacher through his career, Percy’s forthcoming personality allowed him the opportunity to become both the president of Alpha Corporation and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. When the Prince of Wales visited Canada, Percy was “one of His Highness’ aides-de-camp” (Davies 118). Dunstan was not. Percy had two children. Dunstan had none. Regardless of the outcome of his life and the effect his personality may have had on others, the fact remains that Percy experienced more and saw more than Dunstan did during his lifetime to a physical degree. That in itself is enough to qualify Percy’s life as the one of greater value.
Though the definition of value may depend on whom you ask, Percy Boy Staunton lived the life of greater value in its truest and most literal sense. The fruits of his labour as the Minister of Food and the president of Alpha Corporation were passed down to thousands, if not millions of Canadians. The seed of his financial advice to Dunstan Ramsay blossomed into glorious academic achievements, while his life, though chaotic, was certainly more colourful than the mundane life of Dunstan Ramsay. Percy Boy Staunton may not have been the straightest of all arrows, but he was certainly the most valuable one in the quiver. That, above all, is what matters most.
Cameron, Elspeth. Robertson Davies: an Appreciation. Peterborough, Ont., Canada: Broadview, 1991. Print.
Monk, Patricia. Mud and Magic Shows: Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business. Toronto: ECW, 1992. Print.
Ross, Val. Robertson Davies: a Portrait in Mosaic. Toronto: Emblem, 2009. Print.
Davies, Robertson. Fifth Business. New York: Penguin, 2001. Print.+
Complexity Between Dunny and Mrs. Dempster
Fifth Business fixates on Dunstan Ramsay, a man stricken with profound guilt that stems from a childhood accident. At only ten years old, he dodges a snowball aimed at him, that instead strikes Mary Dempster, the young, pregnant woman next door. Consequently, her baby is born prematurely, and she is left with a simple state of mind. As a result, Dunny’s mother takes over the household and acts as the mother of the baby. Dunny, in turn, builds a flourishing relationship with Mrs. Dempster. This complex relationship becomes a way for Dunny to eradicate his chronic guilt. This multi-layered relationship develops into his most extensive internal conflict, as Mrs. Dempster plays four roles in his world: a child, a wife, a mother, and a saint. The intricacy of this relationship, along with Dunny’s love for Mrs. Dempster, causes him to constantly feel inadequate, which only amplifies his guilt.
In the aftermath of the snowball incident, Mrs. Dempster is abandoned by both her husband and son, and ends up living with her Aunt Bertha. For several years, Dunny visits her, against Bertha’s better judgement. After Bertha dies, Mrs. Dempster is truly left alone, which causes Dunny to immediately come running to her rescue. Due to her simple state of mind, he treats her as a child by constantly taking care of her, and assuming full responsibility of her. On page 150, right after Bertha dies, Dunny asks himself, “but what was I to do with her?” This diction, specifically the phrase, “to do with her,” highlights the fact that Dunny sees her as a primary responsibility, similar to the responsibility a father feels to his child.
Additionally, he is unsure of himself, and doesn’t know if he provides the care that Mrs. Dempster needs. Stemming from this inability to take care of her properly he feels a sense of inadequacy, which worsens his guilt. At last, Dunny decides to send Mrs. Dempster to a public hospital for the insane. He does this with deep anguish, and on page 131 says, “I dared not look back, and I felt meaner than I have ever felt in my life.” The hyperbole, “I felt meaner than I have ever felt in my life,” emphasizes the profound difficulty Dunny has in leaving her at the hospital. He wants what is best for her, yet believes he is fundamentally unable to give that to her: this is the crux of the internal conflict. He believes he owes it to Mrs. Dempster to take care of her every need and provide the most comfortable life for her, since he was the one who robbed her of a normal life. The usage of hyperbole adds to Dunny’s role as a father, and more importantly, Mrs. Dempster’s role as his child, which further magnifies his guilt.
After Mrs. Dempster goes simple, Dunny’s mother spends a great deal of time caring for her and helping around the house. Subsequently, Dunny devotes the majority of his time at the Dempster household. The vast amount of time Dunny spends with Mrs. Dempster causes him to fall in love with her, and in turn heightens his guilt as he cannot rescue her from her toxic marriage with Amasa. When Dunny turned 16, he enlisted in the army, during The Great War. The idea of “war fever” was especially common during these times, and is illustrated when Dunny says goodbye to Mrs. Dempster right before he leaves: “When I had to leave she kissed me on both cheeks—a thing she had never done before—and said, ‘There’s just one thing to remember; whatever happens, it does no good to be afraid.’” The mood created at this point in the book is one of passion that not only emphasizes the war fever motif, but highlights Mrs. Dempster’s role as a wife. The close proximity of death heightens their feelings towards one another and allows them to surface, revealing the truth of Dunny’s feelings: he’s in love with her.
Because he is secretly in love with Mrs. Dempster, Dunny feels guilty that she is trapped in a destructive marriage with Amasa, who prays to God every night that He will take Mary away from him. After Mrs. Dempster is caught with the tramp, crowds of people would show up at her front door and bully her. On page 42, when Amasa did absolutely nothing to stop them, Dunny says, “I wish I could record that Amasa Dempster came out and faced them, but he did not.” The formal diction used in this sentence implies that it is expected, and virtually required, that Amasa defends his helpless wife. Using a word like “record,” suggests that Dunny is keeping score between him and Amasa, and Dunny is winning. Additionally, by using Amasa’s full name, he highlights his responsibility as Mrs. Dempster’s husband, and as a result, points out his inability and lack of desire to protect her.
The internal conflict that stems from Dunny’s romantic love for Mrs. Dempster is that he, again, wants what’s best for her, and wants her to be treated right, but cannot rescue her from her cruel husband and sham of a marriage. This internal conflict causes him to feel helpless, which subsequently deepens his guilt, because, once again, he cannot reverse what happened that night with the snowball. In addition to a child and a wife, Dunny regards Mrs. Dempster as a mother figure. When Dunny’s real mother virtually abandons him for Mrs. Dempster’s son, and begins spending more time at the Dempster’s than at her own house, he becomes very vulnerable. These mommy issues, along with the amount of time spent at the Dempster’s, allow Mrs. Dempster to easily assume the role of his mother. On page 55, after Mrs. Ramsay notices Dunny’s child-like affection for Mrs. Dempster, she “concluded by demanding that [Dunny] make a choice between her and ‘that woman.’”
The diction Davies employs in this sentence, particularly the phrase, ‘that woman,’ highlights Mrs. Ramsay’s insecurity in her relationship with Dunny and emphasizes Mrs. Dempster’s maternal position. As the feeling of hopelessness returns, Dunny believes he could have served Mrs. Dempster better in his role as her son. Following Mrs. Dempster’s death on page 230, Dunny says, “And then I begged forgiveness for myself because, though I had done what I imagined was my best, I had not been loving enough, or wise enough, or generous enough in my dealings with her.” The repetition of the word ‘enough’ further emphasizes his insufficiency as a son to her. Although he acknowledges that he tried his best, Dunny will not let go of the feeling that he could’ve done more, or even that she deserved someone better than him as her ‘son’ and caretaker. Mrs. Dempster’s role as a mother creates an internal conflict with Dunny: he believes she is too good for him, and he cannot serve her well enough. This once again affirms his feelings of inadequacy. His guilt is heightened as he believes he is unable to repay her for her “simple- mindedness” that he caused. ***
Mrs. Dempster’s most significant role is Dunny’s saint. His life goal is to verify Mrs. Dempster’s sainthood to justify his profound survivor’s guilt. He can use her sainthood for two things: an explanation for the unknown in his life and as vindication for her madness. When Dunny is fighting on the battlefield, he is wounded, and right before he blacked out, he sees Mrs. Dempster’s face in a statue of the Virgin Mary on a church nearby. From this point on, after Mrs. Dempster both brought his brother back to life, and saved him on the battlefield, Dunny is convinced she is a saint, and is intent on confirming her sainthood. Several decades later, after spending his life searching for this Virgin Mary statue, he discovers it in a museum in Salzburg. Ecstatic, on page 237, Dunny says, “I needed no picture. She was mine forever.” The syntax, specifically the short sentences that end the vignette, reiterates Mrs. Dempster’s role as his saint, and the significance of confirming her sainthood. The fact that Dunny doesn’t want a picture of this Virgin and Child statue contradicts his previous need for tangible evidence. For example, he keeps tangible evidence of the rock Boy threw at him that caused Mrs. Dempster’s simpleness in order to remind him of his guilt. One would think that he would need tangible evidence of Mrs. Dempster’s confirmed sainthood, but that is not the case. The fact that he does not want a picture indicates the profound significance of finding this statue: At last, Dunny is satisfied and completely convinced that Mrs. Dempster is a saint; so much so that he doesn’t need evidence of it.
A branch of Dunny’s chronic guilt is his survivor’s guilt. It’s assumed that if he had not ducked that one night in 1908, if the snowball with the rock had hit him instead of Mrs. Dempster, that he would be simple instead of her. On page 165, Dunny discusses this idea with Padre Blazon, who says, “Stop trying to be God, making it up to her that you are sane and she is mad.” Padre Blazon uses this metaphor to compare him to God, illustrating Dunny’s unrealistic ideals of power, along with his true motives behind searching for confirmation of Mrs. Dempster’s sainthood. Padre Blazon points out that Dunny does not have the power to confirm or deny Mrs. Dempster’s sainthood, and is foolish to think so. He also blatantly states his true motives behind his search for the extent of Mrs. Dempster’s sainthood: Dunny wants to justify her madness. He believes that if he can just prove that she is a saint, his guilt will disappear, because if she is a saint, God had a plan for her all along, that included her going mad.
As Dunny’s guilt resulting from Mrs. Dempster’s roles as a child, a wife, and a mother are all relatively similar, the guilt stemming from her role as a saint is slightly different. While seeing her as a saint, he doesn’t as much feel inadequate, but longs to justify her madness. Once he realizes that he cannot prove her sainthood, he is hit with the realization that maybe her madness wasn’t a part of God’s plan for her, which only adds to his guilt. Dunny is wrecked because he cannot confirm her sainthood, and as a result, cannot justify her madness.
Every day, Dunny’s guilt is intensified due to his multi-layered, complex relationship with Mrs. Dempster. Dunny desires to provide for her like a father, protect her like a husband, serve her as a son would, and confirm her sainthood as a true believer. Having to play so many roles, coupled with his relentless guilt, result in his inability to maintain a healthy relationship with Mrs. Dempster. Their relationship is abnormal, and hampers his ability to ever move into acceptance. As a child, Dunny never confided in anyone about the snowball incident. So therefore, there was never an opportunity for an adult to explain to him that it wasn’t his fault, or to normalize his feelings of survivor’s guilt. No child is equipped to channel such intense feelings in a healthy way on his own. This lack of understanding and comfort stunted his growth, turned him into a hyper- responsible adult, and forever changed the trajectory of his adult life.
An Examination of Guilt: The “Poison” of Hamlet and Fifth Business
Guilt, like a disease of the mind, has the power to consume one’s sanity, govern one’s emotions and demolish one’s life. In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare and in the novel Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, guilt dominates the lives of multiple characters by negatively impacting their fates. This unfortunate fact can be seen through how guilt arises from a flaw in the character’s personality, induces a burden on the life of a loved one, and leads to an inevitable death. In both Hamlet and Fifth Business, guilt emerges from a flaw in the character’s persona, leading to that character’s tragic ending.
In Hamlet, the two main characters that exhibit guilty emotions are Claudius and Hamlet. The incident that initiated the conflicts between several characters is the murder of King Hamlet, committed by his own brother Claudius. Claudius’s fatal flaw is his egotistical nature which distorts his state of mind and compels him to put power above all else. This provokes Claudius’s guilt, which quickly starts to possess him as “[His] stronger guilt defeats [his] strong intents”(3.3.40, Shakespeare) of maintaining his position. Moreover, Hamlet suspects that Claudius is the murderer, bringing more attention upon Claudius’s sins. Hence, Claudius’s ambition to maintain his position as King develops from his selfless values which determine his disastrous destiny. As well, Hamlet’s guilt is caused by his hamartia; his inability to avenge his father. Instead of taking action, Hamlet blames himself for delaying his father’s instructions to punish Claudius. Therefore, Hamlet’s tendency to overthink prevents him from taking action and pushes him towards self-condemnation, towards placing his life in danger. Hamlet’s thoughts are immensely warped by his guilt, changing his perspective on life and leading to his downfall.
In Fifth Business, Boy Staunton, much like King Claudius, is a man of authority. He is successful, wealthy, intelligent, and extremely arrogant; however, his imperfections are his blinding ambition and his selfishness. Boy’s strong desire for success ultimately leads to his unconscious guilt and his demise. Guilt is an illusion to Boy. Consciously, guilt is meaningless to him because he holds ambition over the well-being of Leola. Unconsciously, Boy is lost in the shadow of his guilt: he “had no clarity of mind that would ease him of guilt when he deceived Leola—as he did, with variety and regularity among the free-spirited girls he met” (107, Davies). Unlike Hamlet’s and Claudius’s, Boy’s guilt is indeed unconscious. By lying to Leola, he conceals his guilt and concentrates on advancing his power. This approach displays Boy’s self centeredness as the fatal flaw which brings him to ruin. In both pieces of literature, guilt is caused by the indissoluble flaws in the medium of the minds of these characters, flaws that lead down a road of despair and torment. All in all, the characters’ hamartia contributes to their guilt that affects not only them but also those closest to them.
Furthermore, the negative impacts of guilt in both Hamlet and Fifth Business are evident through the actions that are driven by remorse. In different ways, the main characters put the lives of their significant others in jeopardy, and eventually both their lives ends. In Hamlet, Hamlet is greatly affected by his guilt. His happiness is depleted and his clouded thoughts cause ruthless intentions. Due to his overwhelming shame, Hamlet speaks to Ophelia with words like daggers when he tells her, “Get thee to a nunnery, farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them” (3.1.138-40, Shakespeare). In turn, this attitude has an immediate effect on Ophelia, as her mind descends into a whirlpool of madness. As a result, Hamlet, who cannot cope with his guilt, indirectly kills the woman whom he truly loved, Ophelia. On the contrary, King Claudius utilizes a different approach in dealing with his guilty conscience. He anticipates that his power of manipulation will insure his position and alleviate his guilt. By the time Hamlet discovers Claudius is the murderer during the play, “The Murder of Gonzago,” it becomes apparent to Claudius that Hamlet is convicting him of murder. Since Hamlet is the living persona of Claudius’s impeding guilt, Claudius urgently acts to send Hamlet to England. Claudius plots a plan to eliminate Hamlet and in the process he exploits other characters such as Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Laertes and his Queen in order to maintain his throne. Nevertheless, this plan backfires on King Claudius as he poisons his wife, Gertrude. While he cares for Gertrude, his guilt-driven ambition to kill Hamlet and his dignity are more important to him. Like Hamlet, Claudius enables his guilt to control him in unwanted ways. In both situations, Hamlet and Claudius lose their loved one due to their overpowering guilt.
In addition, the burden in Boy’s unconscious brings his partner Leola to mental deterioration. Boy strives for perfection and superiority over others, “he wanted to make her into the perfect wife for a rising young entrepreneur in sugar” by enforcing Leola to meet a certain criteria that she cannot achieve (126, Davies). Furthermore, Boy’s repressed guilt is projected through his attitude towards women. Despite being married, Boy engages in multiple affairs with other women. When Leola discovers this, she is immediately drained of her sanity. Similarly to Ophelia’s, Leola’s health disintegrates and her life diminishes. Remarkably, Boy does not attend Leola’s funeral and quickly remarries, revealing that he does not consciously feel guilty. However, his unconscious guilt continues growing until it tears him apart.
Although all characters suffer the effects of their immoral actions differently, they all lose their lovers and lose themselves descending to their tragic endings. Lastly, those characters who are unable to confront their guilt face their definitive ends. Despite Claudius’s attempts to abolish his sins by praying for forgiveness, his guilt is still evident through his malicious plans. Guilt turns Claudius into a ferocious villain because he indulges in murderous actions instead of retaining his guilt and atoning for his selfless actions. Foremost, King Claudius creates a formula for his own destruction, when he sets up the fencing duel between Hamlet and Laertes. He manipulates Laertes to injure Hamlet with the tip of his deadly sword and as well he prepares a fatal drink. However, his fate takes a turn for the worst when Laertes is fatally poisoned by his own sword. Laertes admits, “The foul practice hath turn’d itself on me. Lo, here I lie, never to rise again. Thy mother’s poison’d. I can no more. The king. The king’s to blame”(5.2.319-22, Shakespeare). This motivates Hamlet to murder the King by using the venomous sword and Claudius’s own poisonous drink which brings him to death. By this time, Hamlet also meets his downfall as a result of his guilt. Hamlet spends the majority of his time contemplating about life and death, therefore he holds back his responsibility to avenge his father. Hamlet, carrying his overwhelming guilt explains to Horatio, “Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting that would not let me sleep…Rashly- and praised to be rashness for it: let us know our indiscretion sometimes serves us well”(5.2.4-8, Shakespeare,). Thus, Hamlet’s guilt from losing Ophelia and failing to punish Claudius is causing him to act impulsively,suggesting that Hamlet cannot differentiate between what is right and wrong. Ultimately, Hamlet makes the wrong decision of dueling Laertes even after his good friend Horatio warned him. This causes Hamlet to meet his predetermined tragedy. Suddenly, Hamlet’s life is consumed by a flesh wound from Laertes’s poisonous sword and by his own enemy, his guilt.
Likewise, Boy suffers a tragic fate. His guilt is a time bomb living inside his mind that calculates his every action. In fact, the more Boy neglects his guilt, the closer he brings himself to his death. Boy does not realize this accumulated guilt is the deadly weapon that exists within him counting down his seconds to live. When Dunstan reveals the stone and confronts Boy with the truth about his past, Boy still denies his actions because his shadow has overpowered him. However, the damage has been done, as Boy only has a few moments remaining to live. By the time he tries to overcome his shadow, his guilt has manifested and even his ambition could not combat the destructive time bomb that is guilt. Hence, Paul Dempster grants Boy’s internal wish by freeing him from his guilt and his shadow, in the act of ending his life. Notably, Boy committed suicide as the deadly bomb exploded inside of him in the aftermath of his guilt, “He was killed by the usual cabal: by himself, …by the man who granted his inmost wish; and by the inevitable fifth, who was the keeper of his conscience and keeper of the stone.”(272, Davies). Boy is found lifeless with a rock in his mouth, representing his inability to swallow this flood of guilt. Therefore, all characters who avoid their guilt succumb to their ultimate catastrophe, death.
Overall, Claudius and Hamlet from Hamlet and Boy from Fifth Business demonstrate how the price of human life is compromised by one’s guilty conscious or unconscious. One’s guilt caused by a fatal flaw, and brings about both heartless actions upon others and self-deterioration. Evidently, guilt can only be neglected for so long before it amplifies and strengthens to the point of no return.
Works Cited Davies, Robertson. Fifth Business. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 1970. Print.Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. USA: Bantam Book, 1980. Print.
Percy “Boy” Staunton: The Greater Life
Though some may appraise the worth of a life on the basis of intrinsic values, the qualitative nature of such values themselves makes it difficult to make an objective comparison. The value of a life, then, is best defined through the yardstick of the quantifiable: measures like material wealth, overall accomplishments and the contributions that an individual makes to society at large. Percy “Boy” Staunton best fulfills this description in the world of Fifth Business. As a business savvy tycoon and later as the Minister of Food during the Second World War, Percy’s contributions and hand in guiding the Canadian economy far outweigh the value of Dunstan’s own contributions to the academic sphere. He was also instrumental in the life of Dunstan Ramsay himself, to whom he provided the “financial advice and…modest financial security” (Cameron 92) necessary to finance Dunstan’s expeditions across the globe. Even in his personal life, the combination of Dunstan’s social ineptitude and Percy’s natural extroversion gave Percy a social edge, thereby exposing him to a world of things Dunstan never had the opportunity to experience. Though Dunstan accumulated a wealth of experience in Deptford and in his treks across the globe, it is easy to see how Percy “Boy” Staunton lived a life of greater value by all quantifiable measures.According to American academic Leo Calvin Rosten, “The purpose of life is to be useful…it is, above all, to matter and to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” In Fifth Business, Percy Boy Staunton embodied this definition in ways Dunstan never did, and made significant contributions to the welfare of average Canadians “though not many people knew it” (Davies 141). As the president and managing director of Alpha Corporation, and later as the Ministry of Food under the Coalition Cabinet, Percy was single-handedly responsible for keeping the country fed during its times of greatest need. During the Great Depression, for instance, Percy “held the price of bread steady” (Davies 142) and “concentrated on necessities…in times like these, people need cheap, nourishing food.” (Davies 142). He later applied a similar principle as the Minister of Food in the Second World War, and “put the full resources of his Alpha Corporation…to the job of feeding Canada (and) feeding its armed services” (Davies 182). By contrast, Dunstan dedicated his entire life to hagiography (the study of saints), which, though commendable, is of little if any value to the general public. The triviality of Dunstan’s contributions is highlighted by his colleagues’ indifference to “his acceptance from Analecta; (who) looked uncomprehendingly, like cows at a passing train, and went on talking about Brebner’s extraordinary hole-in-one the day before” (Davies 158). Though Percy’s alimentary achievements may not have had the same level of intellectual insight Dunstan’s notes on Wilgefortis-Kummernis so required, Percy’s shrewd and innovative practices in the food industry were certainly of greater value to the general populace than Dunstan’s ever were.Even if a reader were to place greater importance on Dunstan’s accomplishments, one could argue that “Dunstan’s outer journey is made largely through the effect on him of his relation to Percy Boyd Staunton” (Cameron 92). As his confidant and sole financial advisor, Dunstan depended on Percy’s investment advice for his continued financial stability, which he drew upon to satiate his academic hunger and travels around the world. Under Percy’s guidance, Dunstan “laid the foundation for the modest but pleasant fortune I have now…without his guidance I would have been powerless” (Davies 105) and was made “pretty well-off for a man in your position” (Davies 254). Dunstan’s interest in medieval religious art and hagiology blossomed from his plentiful monetary reserves – courtesy of Percy – which he used to pursue saints in “scores of churches through the Low Countries, France, Austria and Italy” (Davies 115). From that point onwards, a snowball effect (pun intended) ensued: Dunstan began writing books based on the research gathered during his journeys and successfully published three books over the course of his literary and teaching career. Dunstan later travelled to Mexico on the Chairman of the Board’s (Percy’s) goodwill, where Eisengrim’s aide Liesl commissioned him to write Eisengrim’s autobiography with the style and “candour that is brilliantly disingenuous, treating marvels with the seriousness of fact” (Davies 202) that had come to characterize his other literary works. The success of the autobiography allowed Dunstan “to transfer Mrs. Dempster from the public wards of that hateful city asylum to a much better hospital near a small town” (Davies 220). It is important to note that all of the above are the direct result of Percy’s financial advice, who acted as the fiscal catalyst of Dunstan’s accomplishments and without whom such accomplishments would have been impossible to achieve.Some may argue, however, that Percy lived a life of lesser value and served only to facilitate Dunstan’s jaunts across the globe. This could not be farther from the truth. A natural extrovert and keen on living the high life, Percy flourished in his personal life experiences well before becoming a member of Canada’s elite, while Dunstan wallowed in mediocrity and lived a life of lonely solitude. It was clear, for instance, that Percy was the more accomplished of the two in love. Percy married Leola after the First World War, before Dunstan had the opportunity to profess his love for her; naturally, Dunstan “resented anybody else having her…and God forbid that I should pretend that there is not a generous measure of spite in my nature” (Davies 94). While Dunstan remained a schoolteacher through his career, Percy’s forthcoming personality allowed him the opportunity to become both the president of Alpha Corporation and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. When the Prince of Wales visited Canada, Percy was “one of His Highness’ aides-de-camp” (Davies 118). Dunstan was not. Percy had two children. Dunstan had none. Regardless of the outcome of his life and the effect his personality may have had on others, the fact remains that Percy experienced more and saw more than Dunstan did during his lifetime to a physical degree. That in itself is enough to qualify Percy’s life as the one of greater value.Though the definition of value may depend on whom you ask, Percy Boy Staunton lived the life of greater value in its truest and most literal sense. The fruits of his labour as the Minister of Food and the president of Alpha Corporation were passed down to thousands, if not millions of Canadians. The seed of his financial advice to Dunstan Ramsay blossomed into glorious academic achievements, while his life, though chaotic, was certainly more colourful than the mundane life of Dunstan Ramsay. Percy Boy Staunton may not have been the straightest of all arrows, but he was certainly the most valuable one in the quiver. That, above all, is what matters most.Works CitedCameron, Elspeth. Robertson Davies: an Appreciation. Peterborough, Ont., Canada: Broadview, 1991. Print. Monk, Patricia. Mud and Magic Shows: Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business. Toronto: ECW, 1992. Print. Ross, Val. Robertson Davies: a Portrait in Mosaic. Toronto: Emblem, 2009. Print. Davies, Robertson. Fifth Business. New York: Penguin, 2001. Print.+