Fifth Business

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ESSAY OUTLINE

With reference to fifth business, show that the author develops a central theme through a character who is unable to change his/her course of action

Paragraph One

Our childhood plays a significant role in defining the kind of person that we become and the type of life that we live.

In “Fifth Business”, Robertson Davies displays how the main character, Dunstan Ramsay’s, childhood friends and family influence him to be incapable of changing the course of action of his life.

By his senior years, Dunstan had undergone limited progression in his life as he experienced the resurfacing of his childhood persona, the haunting reminder of his family’s relationships in his own affairs, and the persistent burden of guilt and responsibility from inflicting insanity upon a childhood friend.

Paragraph Two

Dunstan Ramsay’s boyish traits made reappearance in his elderly years.

Despite Dunstan’s efforts to suppress his talkative nature, he was aware that he was unable to stop himself from speaking indiscreetly – even as an old man.

“I babbled like a fool” (60)

“I was going to be a sharp-tongued old man as I had been a sharp-tongued boy” (242)

“You are too old a man to believe in secrets. There is really no such thing as a secret; everybody likes to tell, and everybody does tell” (217)

“Babble it to everybody you know because that is your professed way of dealing with confidences” (222)

Dunstan developed a boyish crush at an old age, falling head over heels for a younger woman named Faustina, and was unable to explain his obsession for her.

“Two things that were wrong I could easily identify: I had become a dangerously indiscreet talker, and I was in love with the beautiful Faustina”

“If the breakdown of character that made me a chatterbox was hard to bear, it was a triviality beside the tortures of my love for the beautiful Faustina” (218)

Even in his senior years Dunstan would go alone to a circus or to magic shows because his childhood interest in magic never fully left him.

“Enthusiasm for magic had never wholly died in me” (200)

As Dunstan Ramsay ages in appearance, his persona is, in many ways, becoming more youthful.

Paragraph Three

The relationships present in Dunstan Ramsay’s family left with him a hostile and deceitful impression of women and love, which later instigated his uninterested attitude towards finding a girlfriend and settling down.

Dunstan did not wish for any woman to have authority over him like the way his mother had controlled his father.

“I knew she had eaten my father, and I was glad I did not have to fight any long to keep her from eating me” (64)

“Deep inside I knew that to yield, and promise what she wanted, would be the end of anything that was any good to me; I was not her husband, who could keep his peace in the face of her furious rectitude; I was her son, with a full share of her own Highland temper and granite determination” (64)

Dunstan was never able to overcome the fear and mistrust of women that his mother had instilled in him, and was thereby unable to love and have faith in his admirer Diana Marfleet.

“How could I reconcile this motherliness with the screeching fury who had pursued me around the kitchen with a whip, flogging me until she was gorged with – what? Vengeance? What was it?” (36)

“What I knew then was that nobody – not even my mother – was to be trusted in a strange world that showed very little of itself on the surface”. (36)

He was also incapable of loving Diana because his relationship with his mother originated his intolerance for being the object of adoration for any woman.

“What was wrong between Diana and me was that she was too much of a mother to me, and as I had had one mother, and lost her, I was not in a hurry to acquire another one – not even a young and beautiful one with whom I could play Oedipus to both our hearts’ content” (88)

“I had no intention of being anyone’s dear...
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