Fifth Business Essay

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  • Topic: Preterm birth, Cervix, Magnesium sulfate
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  • Published : March 18, 2008
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Competition, guilt, and the contrast between Boy Staunton and Dunstable Ramsay is what Robert Davies used to define the novel, Fifth Business. Davies portrays the idea of competition through the relationship between Boy and Dunstan in their childhood, their military recognition, and their love for Leola. Moreover, the theme of guilt is shown through the experiences of the characters as Dunstable felt guilty for the premature birth of Paul Dempster, Boy subconsciously felt guilty for the death of Leola, and Paul felt responsible for causing his mother to go insane. Guilt essentially is what drives the characters of Fifth Business and in the end determines the final conclusion. Lastly, although Boy and Dunstable are parallels of each other Davies uses their contrast in values, desire for control, and contrast in prosperity during youth. Their awkward relationship plays a major role in the elements that make Fifth Business such an interesting story. Hence, the story revolves around the idea of competition, guilt, and contrast between two similar yet different characters.

Competition plays an essential role in defining the relationship between Boy Staunton and Dunstable Ramsay, as it is prominent in their childhood relationship, military recognition, and relationship with Leola. While at a young age Dunstable never showed much interest in competing with Boy, Percy always saw Dunstable as a rival. This is evident as Percy became enraged and jealous when his new and expensive sled was not as fast as Dunny's, "I had been sledding with my lifelong friend and enemy, Percy Boyd Staunton, and we had quarreled, because his fine new Christmas sled would not go as fast as my old one" (Davies, 01) It was this competition between who had the better sled that established the setting for the novel, since it provoked conflict and escalated into Boy throwing the snowball at Dunstable that triggered the cycle of events which define the plot. Although Dunstable and Boy did not see each other for many years after their childhood, their second encounter at Deptford when they were receiving the railway watches proved that their childhood competition was far from dead. As Boy was receiving his watch, "Percy Boyd Staunton was the only officer in his group and the only man who accepted his watch with an air…as I grinned and clapped, my stomach burned with jealousy" (Davies, 90) Dunstable became jealous of Percy because Percy was an officer while Dunstan was a mere soldier. Dunstan was competitive of military recognition with Boy and thus envied him when he noticed Boy was an officer, without a scratch on him while Dunstan barely had an arm and a missing leg. Their competition later escalated from military recognition to their love for Leola. Although Dunstable was not with Leola at the time, he was still jealous of Percy and wanted to show the crowd that there had been competition between the two for Leola's love. He did this by first kissing Leola following with, "Darling…how good it is to see you!" (Davies, 91) however Dunstable was countered by Boy, "Dunny, Leola and I have a secret to tell you…we're engaged" (Davies, 91). Although Dunny had seen the ring before, he wanted everyone to know that he almost had Leola and the end result was close, "I shook his hand again and roared, 'Well, well, the best man has won!'—and kissed Leola again…to show that there had been a contest that I had been a near winner myself" (Davies, 91). Hence the competition between Dunstan and Boy plays a significant role in defining their relationship as well as the story.

Guilt has been the driving force in the novel that ultimately decided the fate of Dunstable who was plagued by guilt for Paul's early birth, Boy who was subconsciously guilty for Leola's suicide, and Paul who felt guilty for causing Mrs. Dempster to go insane. Shortly after that fateful night with the snowball incident Mrs. Dempster gave birth to Paul and thus was a...
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