The Fifth Business

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The Fifth Business – Robertson Davies

The author Robertson Davies weaves a fascinating story that paints a picture of how one’s character is defined by their life experiences. The Fifth Business chronicles Dunstable Ramsay’s interactions with women during his life. The relationship with his mother, his neighbour, his first crush and his first lover had tremendous impact on the man that became Dunny. The results of Dunstable’s experiences with women determined the life path and character development of Dunstable Ramsay. Each of Dunny’s defining personality traits can be traced back to an influential woman during his journey.

Leola Cruickshank was influential in Dunny’s development as a man. She was his first crush and resulted in lifelong conflict between him and Percy Boy Staunton. Leola initially taught Dunny jealousy, for she belonged to Percy; she was untouchable. Eventually, over the years, as Dunstan and Boy became friendly he began to see her as a trapped, unhappy woman. It was at this time that she became an object of pity. Leola Cruickshank in her lifelong relationship with Dunny defined the core personality traits of jealousy and pity.

Mrs. Fiona Ramsay, Dunny’s mother, was a strict and unforgiving woman. She ruled her family with fear, in the Baptist “Fire and Brimstone” ways. Her constant criticism and judgemental actions were the catalyst to Dunny’s unexpected departure from the home. To Dunny fighting in the trenches was preferable to staying under his mother’s rule and submitting to her will being her “own dear laddie”. (Davies, 30) “It must have been a strange scene, for she pursued me around the kitchen, slashing me with the whip until she broke me down and I cried. She cried to, hysterically, and beat me harder, storming about my impudence…” (Davies, 29) It was his mother’s influence that kept him reserved, distant and isolated from woman who tried to influence him and be a true part of his...
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