From Obsession to Failure

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From Obsession to Failure

In literature, a character’s obsession with key events in their life can lead them to either success or failure. Obsession is defined as an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind. In Robertson Davies novel, “Fifth Business”, the central character’s intruding thoughts bring him to failure. Throughout the novel, it is evident that Dunstan Ramsay’s obsessions are what cause his slow, tragic, exclusion from society. Dunstan’s involvement with Mary Dempster, his appetite for magic, his unnecessarily kept secrets, and his queer admiration for saints all affect his character in a way that prevents him from forming relationships with the people around him; ultimately leaving him in isolation and bringing him to total failure.

Throughout Dunstan's life, his obsession with Mrs. Dempster not only separates him from society, but greatly damages his social life. From the beginning of the novel, Dunstan’s role of the Dempster family’s caretaker affects his popularity. He says, “Being unofficial watchdog to the Dempster family was often a nuisance to me and did nothing for my popularity" (Davies 22). This reveals that Dunstan willingly chooses to be separated from society due to his obsession with Mrs Dempster, seeing that he can easily criticize and shun her family like everyone else. Also, after realizing that he is falling in love with her, Dunstan focuses all his attention Mrs. Dempster. Liesl tells him, “You despise almost everybody except Paul’s mother. No wonder she seems like a saint to you; you have made her carry the affection you should have spread among fifty people” (Davies 221). This explains why Dunstan cannot form a meaningful relationship with other women in his life because he fills Mrs. Dempster with the love that is intended for fifty people, leaving no room for others in his life. This leads Dunstan to be unable to connect with anyone except Mrs...
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