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.
Guilt Driven Action: Dunstan’s and Cobb’s Tricky Choices
The pressure to succeed often influences individuals to make spontaneous choices regarding their life. Sentence on info. In Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business and Christopher Nolan’s Inception, the cause of action in both Cobb and Dunstan’s lives is fueled by their fear of regret. The loss of Cobb’s wife and separation from his children is what leads to his daring adventure in order to find peace with his past and happiness for his future. Likewise to his situation, Dunstan finds himself making bold choices in order to avoid a missed opportunity for an improved fate. Throughout both the novel and movie there are noticeable similarities between the leading characters regarding their logic behind choices, as their motives both stem from a past mistake. As Cobb navigates his way through his challenge at hand the reminders of his faults follow alongside.
In the introduction to the movie Inception, a phone call is answered by Cobb and it is revealed that he has two children awaiting his and his wife’s return home, but it is quickly disclosed that his wife is no longer living. The death of his wife was suicide but a note left behind shows evidence falsely accusing him of her murder, and leads him to flee the country. When Cobb is given an opportunity to return home he takes it despite the dangers it involves due to the fact he fears this may be his last chance at returning to his children. The descent into adventure begins with Cobb’s introduction to Ariadne who is a talented architect student. As the young student is welcomed into the team of thieves she learns about Cobbs terrible past with his wife and learns of the dangers that his conscience holds. When he is confronted by Ariadne about the danger he could put the other team members in she demands that she accompanies the team in the job, and Cobb gives in requesting another seat on the plane. (Nolan, Inception). The fear of harming others influences him to make this impulsive decision, as he knows the dangers of dream sharing with or without his unstable conscience. As the team travels into the dream world to gather information from Robert Fischer the team is faced with many challenges, and Cobb is forced to make life-threatening choices to save himself and others.
As the team begins the journey through the dream they quickly run into turmoil as they realize Fischer’s conscience has been trained to fight against the extraction of information, and they are nearly killed by a train. While the time on the clock continues to decrease Cobb and Ariadne are forced to enter the dangerous state of limbo to save another teammate. Despite the fact that Cobb is able to return to the real world without his teammate, he fears the regret of losing another person to the world of dream sharing and stays behind to help him. The danger that he puts himself in to save his loved ones and to be reunited with his children further show the distress he faces when confronted with the possibility of regret. Despite the modern concepts presented in this piece of media, the moral struggles Cobb faces are similar to the ones Dunstan is presented within a historical time period.
In the novel Fifth Business it is shown throughout Dunstan’s life that the choices he makes are reflective of his fear of failure and missed opportunities. The event that triggers the spontaneous choices made in Dunstan’s life is the accidental attack on Mary Dempster. In the years following the attack, Dunstan’s life is dedicated to caring for Paul and Mary Dempster who he feels responsible for the challenges they both face in life. The regret he feels from this event is what leads him to make wiser choices to prevent the feeling from occurring again. In an intense conversation with his mother regarding Mrs Dempster, Dunstan is faced with a choice leaving him between a rock and a hard place, “She concluded by demanding that I make a choice between her and ‘that women.’ I made a third choice… and enlisted” (57-58). The fear Dunstan has of choosing his mother or a woman he loves leads him to make a choice that involves neither of them and pushes him to start his own life my joining the army. Dunstan’s enlistment in the army altered his life greatly and leads him to make ample choices to further fulfill his life.
In the years after Dunstan’s departure from the army, he faces many struggles regarding his rehabilitation but continues to expand his knowledge of the world. After selling his childhood home and father’s business he allocates the money towards a better education, “In the autumn of 1919 I entered University College, in the University of Toronto, as an Honours student in history” (101). The choice to return to school rather than to let his disability control his life shows Dunstan’s aspiration for success, as he refuses to give in to a satisfactory future. After Dunstan begins a steady job at an all boys school he searches for Mary Dempster, as he still feels the guilt for the loss of her sanity. Following the death of Mary’s aunt Dunstan becomes sole guardian of her, and puts her in the best nursing home he can afford while he maintains his own needs,” Do you ask: If he couldn’t afford to put the woman in a private hospital, or to get her into a private patients’ section of a government hospital, how did he pay for those jaunts abroad every summer?… In my servitude to Mrs Dempster I was not wholly lost to my own needs and concerns… And I had to have some rest, some refreshment of the spirit,” (172). As Dunstan dreads losing a vital enjoyment in his own life along with the opportunity for redemption to Mary Dempster, he takes action in the best of his abilities to provide for the both of them; further proving that his fear of regret leads to action within his life.
The final opportunity that Dunstan is given in the novel shows that he is not a man to overlook an occasion despite his age or condition, “This looked like an adventure, and, at fifty, adventures do not come every day” (202). The initial feeling of guilt that Dunstan feels in his childhood leads him to take risks and choices to prevent the feeling from occurring again and is shown throughout his entire life. In a similar fashion, both Dunstan and Cobb overcome their fear of regret by taking action within their lives.