Religion in the Novel Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

February 15, 2021 by Essay Writer

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.


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