Understanding Dunstan

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To what extent do relationships contribute to the central character’s ultimate understanding of himself/herself in Fifth Business?

Understanding Dunstan

Robertson Davies’ novel Fifth Business outlines the development of the lost and empty main character Dunstan Ramsay. Dunstan forms many relationships on many different levels. Each of Dunstan’s private and intimate relationships gave him a unique view of his identity. These relationships help him understand and get closer to the accomplishments of his quest of self knowledge, happiness, and ultimately fulfilling his role as ‘Fifth Business’. Diana, Liesl and Mrs. Dempster play vital roles in Dunstan’s understanding of himself.

Dunstan’s first lover, Diana Marfleet, was a beautiful volunteer nurse who had taken care of him after his war injuries. Diana was the first person who Dunstan had a sexual experience with. Dunstan did not have any sexual experience with any previous women. Waiting for a woman like Diana shows that Dunstan had always respected the women in his life and was saving the experience. “I shall always be grateful to her for teaching me what the physical side of love was; after the squalor of the trenches her beauty and high spirits were the best medicine I got.” (81). He had not wanted to fool around sexually with anyone before the right woman came along. He waited for an honourable and admirable woman to lose his virginity to and this reveals his true respect for women and himself. Diana tended to and supported Dunstan through his whole recovery after the war. “She had been nursing me… she had also washed me and attended to my bed pan and the urinal” (77). By pursuing a relationship after Diana had cared for Dunstan for so long, it showed that he found that he had missed the nurturing given by a mother. “But even as I write it down I know how clear it is that what was wrong between Diana and me was that she was too much a mother to me, and as I had had one mother, and lost her, I was not

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