The Theme Of Guilt In Fifth Business By Robertson Davies

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

“I get up and pace the room as if I can leave my guilt behind me. But it tracks me as I walk, an ugly shadow made by myself” Rosamund Lupton once quoted, and the history has proved this again and again. Humans are a very complicated individual, as we will have a positive and negative feeling that affects us to do things, such as when one is happy one will laugh when one is sad one will cry. However, the one which affects individual the most undoubtedly is guilty. Some might argue that humans have many feelings that will affect an individual’s actions because everyone has a different feeling about everything. However, guilt has the worst impact on every individual. In the story “Fifth Business” by Robertson Davies, guilt is the theme that runs throughout all plays as it drives the character cannot face the truth, feeling responsible for the people that they hurt and has a negative impact on mental health. All these impacts will affect people to do things that out of there expectation and keeping avoid the truths.

Firstly, guilt makes people cannot face the truth. This is shown with Dunstan and Boy. Looking at the character of Dunstan is the best way to show how guilt makes people cannot face the truth. According to the snowball accident, Boy throws a snowball to make Mrs. Dempster slipped down to the ground and causes the premature birth of Paul Dempster. Dunstan thinks that was all his fault by making Mrs. Dempster premature and cannot face himself, so he decides to escape his feeling towards Mrs. Dempster and go to the war. “I had kept away from Mrs. Dempster, partly from obedience and fear and partly because I could not bear to face her when so mam hateful opinions about her were ringing in my ears”. Through this, it shows the theme that guilt drives people cannot face the truth and decides to escape their life. Moreover, this also can be shown as the character Boy. Throughout Boy and Leola’s marriage, Boy wished Leola to be something that she could not. Leola tried so hard to suit his lifestyle; however, Boy accomplished that Leola was not the wife that he wanted; the result of this is Boy cheats on her and ignore her and their kids. Finally, when Leola cannot afford that much pain, she decides to kill herself by opened the window, Boy’s mental completely collapses by feeling tremendous guilt and did not even attend to Leola’s funeral by making up the reason that he cannot attend. “Boy was in England, arranging something or other connected with his Ministry, and duty and difficulty of transatlantic flights in wartime kept him there”. Through this, it clearly shows us how guilt drives people, avoiding the truth. In addition, the other way that shows how guilt drives people cannot face themselves would be after Boy got the stone and found out the truth of the snowball accident, and the woman he knew and the women he doesn’t know which are Leola and Mrs. Dempster, he cannot afford that much guilt and kill himself; “It seemed an odd remark, but in the emotional stress of the situation I paid no heed to it. Indeed, it was not until after the news of Boy’s death reached me the next morning that I noticed my paperweight was gone”. Therefore, guilt drives people cannot face themselves. Ultimately, guilt drives people cannot face themselves and the truth that already happens by deciding to escape and avoiding.

Secondly, guilt makes people affect an individual’s feeling. In the beginning, Boy throws the snowball on Mrs. Dempster’s head and makes her get slipped to the ground and cry to her husband, but Dunstan thought that it was his fault to make her get hurt and suffer. “I was contrite and guilty, for I knew that the snowball had been meant for me, but the Dempsters did not seem to think of that”. Through this quote, it shows Dunstan thought that was his fault and feels Self-blame for Mrs. Dempster as she got injured in front of her. Dunstan continues to be feeling a responsibility to Mrs. Dempster throughout the play, “My diary tells me that I visited Mrs. Dempster forty Saturdays every year and at Easter, Christmas, and on her birthday in addition”. Through this, it clearly shows that he still feeling guilt and even makes him feel responsible for Mrs. Dempster even after he survived from the war. Lastly, Paul feels shame on himself, as his father told him that he is the reason that makes his mom go crazy; “My father always told me it was my birth that robbed her of her sanity”. By telling Paul that he is the main reason that makes Mrs. Dempster go insane, it makes Paul feel a considerable shame on himself. Being a son, he had to hold the burden of his mom’s madness. Ultimately, guilt drives an individual to affect their feelings, as it makes people feel self-blame, responsible to others, and feels shame on themselves.

Lastly, guilt makes people have a terrible effect on their mental health; this can be seen from Dunstan as he lost a leg in the war and accepted it very quick; “My plans were simple — to learn to walk with a crutch, and later with an artificial leg and a cane”. This shown that Dunstan still feels guilty for Mrs. Dempster as he believes that he deserves lost a leg in the war and treat it as punishment for him in the accident involving Mrs. Dempster. Moreover, the guilt continued to Dunstan as he stated, “So I was alone with my guilt, and it tortured me”. Through this, it is shown that Dunstan being tortured by his guilt and has terrible mental health by the guilt that comes from Mrs. Dempster. Also, back to the snowball accident, Dunstan takes it all upon himself and feel his the bearer of the guilt. “The next day I made inquiries as to how I could be appointed the guardian of Mary Dempster and found that it was not a very complicated process but would take time”. Because of this guilt, he commits his life to Mary Dempster. Ultimately, guilt makes people have a harmful effect on their mental health as it makes people feel like they deserve some terrible things, tortured by guilt and feel to be the bearer of the guilt.

In conclusion, guilt has the worst effect on individuals. In “Fifth Business” by Robertson Davies, guilt is the theme that runs throughout all plays as it drives the character’s life as it drives people cannot face the truth, avoid and escape their life. Feeling responsible to the people that they hurt, feels self-blame, shame, and guilt. Moreover, it also has a negative impact on mental health as it makes people feel they deserve something wrong, tortured by guilt, and feel to be the bearer of the guilt. Due to all these reasons, guilt is the worst feeling that would affect people’s minds and actions.

Work Cited

  1. “Rosamund Lupton Quote.” A, www.azquotes.com/quote/671625.


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