The Theme of Guilt in Fifth Business

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Guilt in Fifth business

In The Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies, Guilt is a theme that runs throughout both The Fifth Business and is a major force in one's life. Davies demonstrates this by having one character feeling guilt while another who does not. Davies introduces the reader with Dunstan Ramsay and Percy Boyd Staunton. And Dunstan Ramsay and Percy Boyd Staunton are parallels to each other. Davies portrays the idea of competition through the relationship between Boy and Dunstan in their childhood, their military recognition, and their love for Leola. In this novel the theme of guilt is shown through the experiences of the characters as Dunstan felt guilty for the premature birth of Paul Dempster, Boy subconsciously felt guilty for the death of Leola, and Boy felt responsible for causing Mrs. Dempster 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 Dunstan 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.

The guilt felt by Dunstan altered the way he lives through his complete devotion for Mary Dempster. Dunstan’s guilt is the result of his religious upbringing. This guilt is caused by Percy Boyd Staunton when he throws the snowball that hits Mrs Dempster, resulting in her madness and Paul’s premature birth. Dunstan takes it upon himself to be the bearer of the guilt and feels responsible for the Dempster’s misery. Because of this burden of guilt, he commits his life to Mary Dempster. Dunstan handles the Dempster’s chores and cares for Mary and her son, Paul. By understanding Mrs Dempster, it no longer became a moral obligation to care

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