Understanding Dunstan Essay

Words: 1840
Pages: 8

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
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I think you are Fifth Business…You must have Fifth Business because he is the one who knows the secret of the hero’s birth, or comes to the assistance of the heroine when she thinks all is lost, or keeps the hermitess in her cell, or may even be the cause of somebody’s death that is part of the plot.” (217). Now that Dunstan can connect the pieces of his past and emotionally heal, life seems to come much easier to him. Liesl helps Dunstan understand and develop his character. He learns not to judge people from their appearance, let go of the past and guilt, not to hold onto secrets and that he has a place within the world around him.

Mrs. Dempster is described as having an alluring, mysterious air, gentle, fragile nature. In the course of the novel Mrs. Dempster is the character that has ultimately set Dunstan out on his quest to gain self-knowledge, purpose, happiness and his role as Fifth Business. Mrs. Dempster is the figure that sends Dunstan on his many studies and journeys to learn more about saints. Dunstan describes Mary Dempster as a saint because of her three miracles; she saved Willie (Dunstan’s brother) when he had ‘died’ of illness, she appeared to him on the battlefield and she changed the life of the tramp. After being with the tramp, Mrs. Dempster is seen as insane in Deptford. Dunstan stills holds Mrs. Dempster in high esteem, and this shows that regardless of the light a person is put in, Dunstan holds his own view