Fifth Business Character Foils

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Robertson Davies' novel, Fifth Business, revolves around guilt, competition, and two men who are foils of each other. Although Dunstan Ramsay and Percy Boyd Staunton are parallels to each other, they contrast in a great number of ways. Their awkward relationship plays a significant role in the number of elements which make Fifth Business such an interesting story. While Dunstan Ramsay had never been too interested in competing with Percy Boyd Staunton, Percy from a young age saw Dunny as a rival. When Percy's brand new expensive sled isn't as fast as Dunny's, Percy gets angry and throws a snowball at Dunny, which in turn begins the setting for the novel. The two continue to compete throughout the novel, for things such as Leola's love, military recognition, and more. Percy's and Dunstan's characters contrast in many ways. The most prominent way in which they contrast is their values. Dunstan values spiritual things, while Percy values only material things. Percy is impressed by and yearns for money, while Dunstan could care less about it. Dunstan explains his lack of desire for materialistic things: Where Boy lived high, I lived - well, not low, but in the way congenial to myself. I thought twenty-four dollars was plenty for a ready-made suit, and four dollars a criminal price for a pair of shoes. I changed my shirt twice a week and my underwear once. I had not yet developed any expensive tastes and saw nothing wrong with a good boarding-house. (Page 113) This shows us that where as Percy was in pursuit of money and possessions, Dunstan was concerned elsewhere. Dunstan bluntly states that Percy was materialistic: To him the reality was of life lay in external things, whereas for me the only reality was of the spirit - of mind. (Page 114) Dunstan is in a search for inner truth and spirituality, and Percy is searching for outer beauty and appearances. Another way in which the two contrast is that while Dunstan leaves a lot of events...
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