Fifth Business Essay: Guilt

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Fifth Business Essay: Guilt

Guilt is a powerful emotion that can greatly affect the course of a person’s life. Dunny’s character, in Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business, first experienced guilt at an early age due to a tragic accident. A snowball that was meant for Dunny hit a pregnant woman, Mrs. Dempster, causing her to go into premature labour. Although her child, Paul Dempster, survived, the guilt that Dunny experienced from his part in the situation would stay with him for the rest of his life. Guilt stayed with Dunny’s character throughout his life, and continually affected all of his actions. As a child, Dunny felt guilty for the accident, and its affect on Mrs. Dempster. As he sees the weak child, Paul, grow his guilt also continues to grow. Dunny feels like he is to blame, since the snowball was meant for him. “I was contrite and guilty, for I knew that the snowball had been meant for me.” (Davies, 11). As a child, he cannot see how he wasn’t to fully blame for the accident. Dunny’s character feels responsible for the premature birth of Paul. “I was so perfectly sure, you see, that the birth of Paul Dempster, so small, so feeble and troublesome, was my fault. If I had not been so clever, so sly, so spiteful in hopping in front of the Dempsters just as Percy Boyd Staunton threw that snowball at me from behind, Mrs. Dempster would not have been struck. (Davies, 22). Dunny’s guilt for Paul’s premature birth causes him to feel guilty for all troubles that Paul has as an infant. Dunny’s guilt forces him to repay the Dempsters, and help them in any way that he can. “There was only one thing to be done, and that was to help the Dempsters as much as possible, without approving or encouraging any tendencies that might run contrary to the right way of doing things. My mother ordered me over to the Dempsters’ to chop and pile wood, sweep away snow, cut the grass, weed the vegetable patch, and generally make myself handy two or three times a week and on...
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