VIEWS: 29 PAGES: 35 POSTED ON: 4/22/2012
The narrator states that he is ill-qualified to discuss the war. Despite the fact he spent the years between 1915 and 1917 in the infantry, he says his memories seem to have little to do with the campaigns and military actions reported by historians. All he remembers from his days of dodging bullets in the mud is sheer chaos and confusion. At the beginning of his military service, Dunstable recalls suffering greatly from homesickness, having never been away from Deptford before. He forms no friendships with the other members of the Second Canadian Division, although he would have liked to have a friend. He suffers from the intense boredom that accompanies the loss of all the pleasures that make life worth living. In training camp, he performs the routine chores that make up a soldier's life reluctantly, yet thoroughly. In appearance, he becomes a man, and both his mother and Leola Cruikshank notice this when he returns home for a final leave before heading for the war theater abroad. The commanding officers indoctrinate the troops to believe that all Germans are the devil incarnate. Dunstable cannot help but notice that his own fellow soldiers display many of the traits attributed by the officers to the Germans, such as thieving, whoring, and lying. Once in France, his boredom remains, but his loneliness is replaced by fear. He spends many months at the Front, watching his comrades die in the mud, or worse, be injured beyond repair and yet live on. To ward off the boredom, he carries around a pocket Bible, as it is the only book small enough for him to keep on his person. For this he gains the nickname of Deacon, which he finally manages to live down one day by performing a raunchy vaudevillian impersonation of Charlie Chaplain for the troops. Dunstable remains astounded to this day that his fellow soldiers had been so shocked to learn that there was more than one side to his personality. Dunstable has always understood that people have many, often seemingly opposite, sides to their characters. However, life in the trenches leaves him little time to philosophize. Survival is his predominant concern. He achieves the rank of sergeant before he is twenty-years-old, and shortly thereafter his fighting days are brought to an end by a terrible wound. He is sent on a night raid with a handful of other men; in an effort to find shelter from the bullets, he rushes a nest of German snipers, killing all three and thus saving his troops from the enemy fire. Aware that his own side will soon bombard the sniper nest, Dunstable is forced to re- enter the fray to seek better shelter. Exploding shrapnel slices into his leg, and he somehow crawls towards a bombed-out building to relative safety. At death's door from loss of blood, Dunny recalls Mrs. Dempster's parting words. She had told him that no matter what happens, it does no good to be afraid. As these words return to him, Dunny looks up and sees a statue of the Virgin and Child. He is in the ruins of a church, and the statue is the exact likeness of Mrs. Dempster. With that miraculous image in his mind, he sinks into unconsciousness. Dunstable wakes up in a hospital in England, where he is tended by a beautiful girl named Diana Marfleet. His leg has been amputated, and Dunny discovers that a large portion of his torso bears deep and permanent burn scars. Diana's presence soothes his wounded spirit. At twenty-four, she is four years his senior, and he benefits from her wisdom and maturity. She confides that her fiancy, a Navy lieutenant, had gone down with his ship in the early part of the war. It is Diana who brings him the news that his actions in his final battle have won him the prestigious V.C. award. However, Dunny has been declared dead, and the award given posthumously. The doctor sends word to Dunny's parents that he is alive, but the letter arrives too late. Both his mother and father are already dead, killed by the flu epidemic in early 1918. Before they died, they received news of Dunny's death. Dunstable admits to feeling relief at the news of his parents' death. The narrator interjects that later, in his thirties, he comes to see his parents as human beings who had done the best they could by him. "But as I lay in that hospital I was glad that I did not have to be my mother's own dear laddie any longer, or ever attempt to explain to her what war was, or warp my nature to suit her confident demands. I knew she had eaten my father, and I was glad I did not have to fight any longer to keep her from eating me. Oh, these good, ignorant, confident women! How one grows to hate them!" (pg. 89) Dunny does not share these feelings with Diana; however, he confides all of his war experiences to her, and they grow very close. As Dunny's health improves, he meets her family, and Diana begins to instruct him in the social etiquette which he had not learned in his rustic home village of Dempster. Eventually Dunny realizes that Diana believes they will marry. Dunny knows he is not in love with Diana, yet he is not ready to part from her either, and so he lets her believe they may have a future. The war's official end is celebrated while Dunny is still in the hospital. Very soon thereafter, Diana initiates Dunstable into the art of lovemaking; he remains to this day grateful for her loving tenderness with his scarred body. Shortly afterwards, Dunny is presented with his V.C. - no longer a posthumous award - by the King himself. Dunny has mixed feelings about the award. He feels that people need heroes, but realizes that heroes are merely human beings like himself who are cast in that role by others. Does he deserve to be a hero? He decides that someone has to play the role, and it might as well be him. When the King pins the medal on Dunny, their eyes meet, and Dunstable has a sudden intuition that kings, like heroes, are merely human beings playing a role, and that the King, like himself, is somewhat puzzled as to why he was the man chosen for the role. "Ever since, I have tried to think charitably of people in prominent positions of one kind or another; we cast them in roles, and it is only right to consider them as players, without trying to discredit them with knowledge of their off-stage life - unless they drag it into the middle of the stage themselves." (pg. 90) Afterwards, he celebrates over dinner with Diana and her parents. By now, Dunny has learned to walk with a prosthetic leg and a cane, and is enjoying the role of hero. He loves his time with Diana, too, but begins to see he could never possibly marry her. She is the woman who nursed him back from the dead. As such, she feels that he is her creation, and because of this, Dunny sees his mother in her. He has no desire to be anyone's own dear laddie ever again. The narrator remarks that he has often regretted the life he might have had with Diana, and yet he has always known he made the right decision. However, at this point, he has yet to tell Diana his decision. Meanwhile, letters arrive weekly at the hospital from Leola Cruikshank. Diana questions him endlessly about his relationship to Leola, however Dunny is unsure whether Leola considers them engaged or not, and her letters are maddeningly vague. One night, Dunny and Diana hash out their relationship; they talk until three in the morning, and Diana finally accepts that marriage is not in their future. However, Diana wants to know what Dunny does plan to do with himself. Dunstable tells her he has no intention of marrying Leola either; he needs to figure out his future on his own. He plans to return to Canada and enroll in a university, and hopes to grow up and become a man. "The war had not matured me; I was like a piece of meat that is burned on one side and raw on the other, and it was on the raw side I needed to work." (pg. 102) Diana's final gift to Dunstable is to rename him. She tells him about the saint named Dunstan, whom she believes to have been a man similar to Dunny. St. Dunstan had a passion for learning, and he was well-known for resisting temptation. Once, the Devil tried to tempt St. Dunstan with a beautiful woman, but St. Dunstan caught and twisted the Devil's nose with his goldsmith's tongs. Diana and Dunny part as friends, and her parents approve of their decision not to marry, although they still like Dunny. Thus, rechristened Dunstan Ramsay, Dunny returns to Canada at long last. Deptford goes all out and throws a huge parade in celebration of Dunstan's return. The entire village gathers in the Opera House to honor their war heroes. When Dunstan doesn't see his brother, Willie, gathered with the other returning veterans, he feels the reality of Willie's loss for the first time. However when he sees the large diamond ring on Leola Cruikshank's finger as she stands proudly next to Percy, Dunstan feels only relief, and a measure of irritation that Leola had not bothered to inform him of this development in her letters. Unwilling to let Percy win so easily, Dunstan approaches Leola and kisses her quite publicly, forcing Percy to explain in front of everyone how he has stolen the war hero's girl. To complete his performance, Dunstan graciously gives Percy and Leola his blessing. Percy has been decorated with a few medals himself, but Dunstan is pleased to see that none of the medals come close to rivaling his V.C. award. Before leaving town, Dunstan visits his parents' now-empty house. He clears out the few things he wishes to take, including a secret object which the narrator does not reveal to the reader. Then Dunstan visits the barbershop to get the local gossip and have his hair cut by his childhood schoolmate, Milo Papple. Milo tells him about his parents' death. Dunstan's father had died first, and his mother had lost heart and followed a week later. According to Milo, Dunstan's mother was a saint, and everyone in town knows that it was she who sent Dunny to sneak regular visits to Mrs. Dempster after the incident with the tramp. Mrs. Dempster, it turns out, did survive the flu epidemic, but her husband, Amasa, did not. And, because young Paul Dempster ran away with the circus when he was ten-years-old, Mrs. Dempster was left all alone by Amasa's death. An aunt from Mary Dempster's side of the family had come to take her away, and presumably she is still living with the aunt somewhere in Weston, near Toronto. The next day, Dunstan visits the Presbyterian Church, the bank, and the local auctioneer, before boarding a train out of town. Chapter 2 AnalysisThis chapter covers the narrator's coming of age. The war forces him into manhood quite violently, and after the war, Diana gently urges him to complete the journey. But the narrator reveals himself to be a thoughtful young man. He has become mature enough to admit that he has a long way to go yet, on the path to manhood. His parents' deaths have freed him from the tyranny of their narrow beliefs, and the sale of their estate provides him with a measure of economic freedom as well. Dunstan uses his newfound freedom to indulge his love of learning, and to live up to the family reputation of being literary leaders in the community. As the narrator himself hints at the very end of the chapter, he has left Deptford in the flesh, but its spirit remains with him. Having provided the reader a darkly fascinating portrait of Deptford's spirit in Chapter I, the narrator's statement is meant to imply that Dunstan may not be fully free of his parents' narrow views. In fact, Dunstan's rejection of Diana - a seemingly thoughtful and mature decision - also reflects his rebellion against his mother and everything she stood for in her role as leading woman in Deptford. Thus, the narrator has not escaped Deptford's views, he is in fact arranging his life in opposition to those views. His parents and Deptford taught him to fear love, and now he gives up his love of Diana in reaction to that fear. Similarly, throughout this chapter and throughout his life, the narrator will have trouble forming solid attachments and friendships. Symbolically, Dunstan's new name is important to the theme of his life's story. Renamed after St. Dunstan by Diana, this new name symbolizes several things. First, it underscores the narrator's love of saints, which will soon become a prominent part of his life. To be saintly typically implies holiness, or a devout attention to religion, yet in Deptford, Papistry is considered heretical by Amasa Dempster. Thus Dunstan's interest in saints is not as pure as it would seem. It is in a sense a rebellion against the dictates of Deptford, and tyrannical religious leaders like Amasa Dempster. Second, because he is not Catholic, and Dunstan's religion does not recognize saints, by becoming a saint in name at least, Dunstan is keeping a distance between himself and his fellow human beings. He is an outsider to the Catholic Church, but his interest in saints makes him an outsider to his own faith as well. Finally, his rechristening by Diana gives the reader an idea of the kind of man he's becoming. She teases him about St. Dunstan's ability to resist temptation, thus indicating to the reader that Dunstan is becoming a temperate, thoughtful, and disciplined man. Chapter 3 Summary In the fall of 1919, Dunstan Ramsay enters University College in Toronto as an honors student in history. He has sold the family house and its contents at auction, and also sold the family newspaper to a printer. Dunstan has himself a modest, but decent, nest egg, including the annual stipend he receives for his V.C. award. This allows him to afford four years in college, followed by a fifth year to earn his Masters in Arts degree. Socially, Dunstan keeps to himself during college, but academically he thrives. Dunstan loves learning, and he is so glad to be out of the mudholes of France that he works harder at his studies than he realizes. Percy, too, attends the university in Toronto, and like Dunstan, has renamed himself. Percy Boyd Staunton is now simply named Boy Staunton, and indeed he epitomizes the glory of youth. Boy is young, handsome, rich, and a combat veteran. "Where his looks and style came from I never knew; certainly not from cantankerous old Doc Staunton, with his walrus moustache and sagging paunch, or from his mother, who was not a charming woman. Boy seemed to have made himself out of nothing, and he was a marvel." (pg. 123) The narrator comments that at this stage in his life, Boy selects for his role model the Prince of Wales, Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David. The Prince is reputed to be a ladies man and social carouser, but he is also a serious man fated for greatness, and this is how Boy Staunton sees himself, too. Boy studies law, but majors in women, socializing, and making money. His father, Doc Staunton, continues to increase his fortune by producing sugar-beets. Boy's vision exceeds his father's, and he talks the elder Staunton into investing in the process of refining sugar from the beets. The refined sugar makes the Stauntons a great deal of money, and on top of this, Boy has a remarkable knack for investing in the stock market. Boy generously shares stock tips with Dunstan, enabling Dunstan to accumulate his own, albeit much smaller, fortune. Dunstan feels grateful to Boy, but primarily, Boy's help increases his jealousy of his childhood friend and rival. Socially, they are in different spheres, and although Dunstan has no desire for flashy cars, clothes, or women, he still resents that Boy has all these things. Boy, for his part, views Dunstan as a trusted confidant. Dunstan, as the reader may recall, learned to keep confidences at a young age, and now Boy makes use of that gift. Boy cheats on his fiancy, Leola, constantly, and tries to get Dunstan to help him justify the cheating. Boy explains to Dunstan that the girls he cheats with know what they are doing and therefore Boy has no responsibility to them whatsoever. In Boy's twisted logic, since he is not in love with any of the other women, he is not really cheating on Leola, whom he does love. Dunstan listens to all of this with hidden spite. He resents losing Leola to Boy, although he does not and has never loved Leola. Nonetheless, he recognizes something that Boy does not: That Boy enjoys lording his conquest of Leola over Dunstan. The only woman Dunstan pines for is Diana. She is the epitome of a marvelous woman; he cannot imagine anyone better. Yet he is unwilling to marry her or anyone else because he feels that all women are fundamentally as controlling as his own mother. After completing his Masters, Dunstan applies for a job teaching at Colborne College. He takes to teaching quite naturally and is glad to be teaching boys, not girls. The narrator believes that women do not benefit from the type of education provided to men. The narrator reflects on his forty-plus year career. He feels he has been a good teacher, and that it was the right career for him, but he never gave it much thought at the time; it simply seemed natural for him to teach. Certainly he never expected to spend his entire career as a teacher at Colborne when he first began. As the years went by, the narrator realizes, he became subject to the rumors of homosexuality which plague every bachelor schoolteacher. He has never been attracted to boys. His affinity for teaching them is simply that he understands boys. "I have been a boy myself, and I know what a boy is, which is to say, either a fool or an imprisoned man striving to get out." (pg. 132) The narrator admits to not having lived chastely either, despite his criticism of Boy's affairs. There have been a number of women over the years, none of them serious, but he claims to have liked them all and played fair with each one of them. By the time the narrator begins his teaching career at Colborne, he is twenty-six years old, and the five thousand dollars he started out with has grown, despite education expenses, to eight thousand, with the help of Boy Staunton's advice. Dunstan does not know how much Boy has accumulated by this point, but Boy's wedding to Leola is quite a fashionable affair. Leola is a radiant bride, and Boy arranges a honeymoon trip for them to Europe. Unfortunately for Dunstan, they all wind up aboard the same ship, for Dunstan, too, is going to Europe to reward himself for the hard work, dedication, and modest living which got him through college. Class distinctions were quite important at this time, relates the narrator, so he is pleasantly surprised when Boy sends a note to him in second-class, inviting Dunstan to dine with the newly married Stauntons in first class. That night, Boy tells Dunstan that Leola is striving hard to overcome the limitations of her narrow upbringing, in order to be the sophisticated wife that Boy needs. The Stauntons disembark at Southampton, but Dunstan continues on to Antwerp, where he tours the battlefields where he once fought. He searches for the Madonna statue he had seen the fateful night on which he was injured, but to no avail. However, this quest introduces him to an interest that will become life-long: the study of the saints and statues found in the historical churches of Europe. Dunstan approaches his new passion with a historical, rather than religious, bent. The Old Testament Presbyterianism with which he was raised decries the worship of saints, or Papistry, as do all the other churches in Deptford. However Dunstan is fascinated by the historical tales, which remind him more of the literaryArabian Nights tales than of religion. He visits Catholic church after Catholic church, feeling foolish for taking an interest in religious statuary that contradicts his own spiritual background and beliefs. Nonetheless, he finds himself happier than he has ever been in his life. By the time Dunstan returns home, he knows he has found a life-long passion. Back home, Boy continues to educate Leola on the finer points of being a business impresario's wife, as meanwhile his financial star continues to rise. Leola takes tennis and bridge lessons, and learns to converse brightly about nearly any topic of interest to Boy's associates. She is a woman deeply in love with Boy, around whom her life revolves. Boy experiences a stroke of luck when the Prince of Wales tours Canada, meets Boy, and hires him as an aide-de-camp for the tour. After the Prince leaves, the Stauntons settle into their life of being young social leaders. Their first child is born and named Edward David, after the Prince, who sends them a christening mug to celebrate the baby's birth. Boy and Leola leave the Presbyterian Church and become Anglicans, which estranges her from her parents. Baby Caroline comes along two years later. Boy is concerned with Dunstan's odd fixation on saints, and encourages him to drop this hobby, leave school-mastering behind, and make something out of his life. Dunstan prefers to allow chance and destiny to decide his fate, and waits patiently until one day his fate announces itself. A man named Joel Surgeoner, head of the Lifeline Mission in Toronto for poor and destitute people, comes to Colborne College to speak. Surgeoner tells the audience when he prays for God's help for his Mission, he always receives the help he needs. Surgeoner has his back turned to Dunstan when he says this, but suddenly whirls and points at the narrator, accusing him of unbelief. Indeed, Dunstan does not believe that it is possible for Surgeoner to command God's will to receive the material support he needs for his charity. However, when Surgeoner turns to confront Dunstan, Dunstan instantly recognizes him as the tramp from the gravel pit; the same tramp who led Mary Dempster to her downfall. That very night, Dunstan appears at Surgeoner's mission. A religious sermon is in progress, and Dunstan listens to Surgeoner request several items from God for his Mission. After placing his supply order with God, Surgeoner begins telling uplifting but improbable tales of spiritual redemption that Dunstan believes to be lies. After the service, Dunstan confronts him, and Surgeoner admits that the stories were pure exaggeration, but he also insists that stories about improbable miracles are the kinds of stories that offer hope of redemption to vagrants and tramps. Dunstan tells Surgeoner who he is, and reminds him of the incident with Mrs. Dempster in Deptford. Surgeoner responds that Mary Dempster changed his life. By loving him willingly that night, she redeemed his soul. He left Deptford the next day feeling reborn, and began his new life after that. Dunstan starts to realize that he cannot build his future by forgetting the past, although both he and Boy have done their best to forget Deptford. When he leaves the Mission, Dunstan gives Surgeoner a ten dollar contribution. Surgeoner tells him it will buy the items he prayed for earlier that night, and asks, "'Do you see now how prayers are answered?"' (pg. 153) Thus at the narrator's first opportunity, he returns to Deptford. From the magistrate, he obtains the address of Miss Bertha Shanklin, the old maid aunt who had taken Mrs. Dempster away to live with her in Weston. The magistrate insinuates that whoever had thrown the snowball at Mrs. Dempster ruined her life, her husband's life, and their son Paul's life. Clearly the magistrate suspects Dunstan of being the culprit. Dunstan admits nothing, but his sense of guilt and obligation to Paul is renewed by the magistrate's implied accusation. Following this interview, Dunstan goes to see the local Catholic priest. Dunstan has a theory that since it takes three miracles for someone to be pronounced a saint by the Catholic Church, and because he believes Mrs. Dempster has performed three miracles, he therefore believes she may be a saint. The priest laughs at his theory, reminding him that only the Catholic Church can determine who is and is not a saint, and that neither Dunstan nor Mrs. Dempster are even Catholic. The priest doesn't believe Mrs. Dempster raised Willie from the dead; he doesn't believe the tramp, Surgeoner, is truly reformed; and he doesn't believe Dunstan's sighting of Mary Dempster's face on the battlefield was anything other than a wounded man's fantasy. However, the priest does introduce Dunstan to the Jewish concept of a "fool-saint." (pg. 157) A fool-saint is a person who seems holy, and is filled with love for mankind, but who is also insane, and therefore every good deed the fool-saint attempts to accomplish actually comes to nothing. The priest says fool-saints are bad luck to be around, and advises Dunstan to stay away from Mrs. Dempster. Dunstan decides to ignore this well-intended advice. Within a week of leaving Deptford, he finds himself in Weston, visiting Mrs. Dempster. Now forty, she looks much younger, but she does not remember Dunstan at all. The aunt, Bertha Shanklin, is protective of Mary, and tries to send Dunstan away. Without going into the miracle business, Dunstan explains his connection to Mrs. Dempster, and admits that he feels guilty he did not seek her out sooner. Miss Shanklin's attitude softens. She knows a lot of terrible things happened to her niece in Deptford, and she, too, feels guilty for not having gone to Mary's assistance during the dark Deptford days. Miss Shanklin admits that she was foolish and proud, and when Amasa refused to take money from Mary's wealthy family, Miss Shanklin cut her off spitefully, and left her to the cruelties of Deptford. The aunt tells him the Mary remembers very little of those dark days, and becomes upset anytime her son Paul is mentioned. If Dunstan promises not to tell Mrs. Dempster who he really is, so as not to remind her of the past, the aunt will allow him to visit as often as he likes. With that, he returns to his life at Colborne College. A few days before the stock market crash of 1929, Boy advises him to sell off his stocks. Thus both Boy and Dunstan survive Black Friday unscathed. Dunstan is thus free to take the trip to Europe that he has already planned, in the interests of saint-hunting, saint-describing, and saint-identifying. These trips will become an annual ritual for Dunstan, and this first trip leads to the publication of his first book, A Hundred Saints for Travelers. His main target is a little-known saint named Wilgefortis, called upon by women who wish to avoid unwanted suitors. Legend has it that Wilgefortis miraculously grew a beard overnight in order to avoid marrying a cruel man. Because of the beard, statues of Wilgefortis are commonly confused with male saints, and thus she is relatively obscure. Dunstan wishes to rescue her from obscurity, and hopes to update the legend with some modern scientific research he has discovered which documents unusual hair growth in women who are crossed in love. Apparently the hair growth is initiated by the hormonal imbalances that accompany deep emotional distress. In a tiny village in Tyrol, he finds a statue of Wilgefortis, and he also finds Paul Dempster. Paul is traveling with Le grand Cirque forain de St Vite, a circus named for the patron saint of traveling showmen. Dunstan goes to the circus hoping to find a bearded lady and ask her if she has been crossed in love. The circus is a dismal affair, and he is on the verge of leaving when a young man takes the stage and begins a series of brilliant card tricks. This, of course, is Paul. After the show, Dunstan badgers him until he finally admits that he is Paul Dempster. Paul wants nothing to do with Dunstan, but Dunstan cagily invites everyone in the circus out for free drinks. Over drinks, the Bearded Lady confides to him that Paul only stays with this sad little circus out of loyalty to its owner, a man who goes by the name Le Solitaire. Le Solitaire has been a father-figure for Paul, and is actually the man who recruited him into circus life. When he takes his leave, Dunstan asks Paul if he can tell his mother that he has found him. Paul prefers that he does not, for Paul Dempster intends to stay lost. The next morning, Dunstan finds his wallet missing; all of the evidence tells him Paul took it. Chapter 3 Analysis In this chapter the author solidifies all of the elements of Dunstan's adult life. The storylines initiated in his youth are updated and carried forward into the future, and the now grown-up narrator initiates new storylines. In Chapter III Dunstan finds the career which will carry him through life, and he begins his annual trips to study saints, trips which will eventually generate the entire body of his work as an author. Fate begins to assert itself as a theme in his adult life, and the narrator shares his views about co-creating with fate. Boy Staunton takes the opposite approach, telling Fate, and life, what he wants from it, and expecting to get it. Thus the seeds of their characters, sewn in childhood, begin to assert themselves more fully in adulthood. The same is true for Paul Dempster, who becomes a professional magician. This is curiously ironic, for Amasa Dempster had seemed so tyrannical when forbidding his son from doing magic tricks. Paul had thus made the decision in his youth to rebel against his father by running away to become a circus magician. This youthful decision has shaped his adult life, and when Dunstan finds Paul again, working for a pathetic little circus act and clearly down on his luck, it seems that Dunstan may have been a bad influence after all. As an adult, Dunstan hopes to set this right, and takes on the responsibility he feels to the Dempsters by seeking out Mary Dempster. Several twists of fate have convinced Dunstan that Mrs. Dempster is a saint, although the world around him refuses to believe. Yet Dunstan knows how narrow-minded people can be, having been raised in Deptford, and refuses to allow anyone to shake his faith in Mrs. Dempster. Dunstan's search for the Madonna statue symbolizes his search for Mrs. Dempster, but the author does not yet reveal her meaning to his life. The search for meaning is a core tenet of the book, and ultimately will be revealed as the purpose for Dunstan's life. In this chapter, he indulges in exploration for meaning through his historical research on saints. The lives of the saints interest him from both a dramatic and historical perspective, and his fascination with their lives summarizes several facets of his character. His interest in the mystical accomplishments of the saints combines his boyhood love for magic tricks with his other boyhood love, reading about the dramatic lives of Catholic saints. Dunstan is a thinker, and even presumes to analyze his own interest in saints. He ponders much on why people feel the need to believe in the mystical, in the magical, and addresses this theme in his second book on Catholic saints. Thus every one of Dunstan's childhood interests and traits becomes more pronounced in his adult years. The author and narrator's acknowledgment of this fact makes it clear to the reader that the events of Chapter I, Dunstan's childhood in Deptford, were a mere foreshadowing of events to come. Thus far, the author has demonstrated a pattern of increasing significance for every element of the childhood years in Deptford. It stands to reason that the events of Chapter I will continue to grow in importance until the final denouement Chapter 4 Summary Boy Staunton makes a fortune during the Depression, because he specializes in providing cheap, bulky, comforting foods. His sugar business expands to include doughnuts, soft drinks, and a variety of cheap foods that provide a feeling of fullness and sweetness otherwise unavailable to the poor, starving masses. Boy's best-selling product is the vitamin-enriched bread he makes, which he promises to keep at a steady price throughout the Depression. Boy takes a lot of heat for being a rich capitalist, yet his cheap bread provides nourishing sustenance for many families during these tough years. His obsession with the Crown Prince remains strong, although his association with the man is nothing stronger than an annual exchange of Christmas cards. Leola has not faired well over the years. Her tennis and bridge lessons have come to nothing. Her tacky sense of fashion and lack of refinement embarrass Boy. She simply lacks the depth that Boy is looking for in a wife, and as she begins to realize that she is a failure in Boy's eyes, she gives up trying to improve herself. Boy has become even more polished and refined over the years, but is a bully with Leola. He punishes Leola for what he perceives as her failures, with the silent treatment and other intimidating behavior. Dunstan remains Boy's most trusted confidant, and despite his concern for Leola, never interfered in their affairs, except on a couple of occasions. One time Dunstan felt the need to get involved was when Boy gave him several rolls of film to develop by hand. As he is developing the film, Dunstan discovers several sexy pictures of Leola. Dunstan is enraged by Boy's callousness; however, it is not Leola's honor that concerns Dunstan; rather he is furious that Boy considers him so much of a neuter that he gives him dirty pictures of Leola to develop. Dunstan thinks that maybe Boy might be telling him to take Leola off his hands, having tired of his wife. Instead of destroying the film, as he is tempted to do, Dunstan enlarges the pictures of Leola and returns them to Boy. The next time Dunstan has dinner at the Stauntons, which he does frequently, Boy pulls out the photos and humiliates Leola by showing them to Dunstan in front of her. Dunstan responds by telling Boy the story of Gyges and King Candaules. King Candaules was so proud of his wife's beauty that he insisted his friend Gyges see her naked. Dunstan tells Boy that there are two endings to the story. One is that the Queen becomes Gyges' lover, and together they push Candaules off his throne. The second version is that Gyges kills his friend Candaules. Boy doesn't respond to the story, but Dunstan realizes later that their son, David, was born exactly nine months after that night. Dunstan develops the habit of visiting Mrs. Dempster and her aunt every other Saturday, except during his annual trips to Europe. Mrs. Dempster never indicates any memory of having known Dunstan in the past. During all this time, Dunstan only sees one other visitor to the household, Miss Shanklin's lawyer, Orpheus Wettenhall. In 1932, Miss Shanklin dies from pneumonia, and a letter from Wettenhall notifies Dunstan. After the funeral, Wettenhall informs Dunstan that he has inherited five thousand dollars a year on the condition that he uses the money to care for Mrs. Dempster, who has inherited the rest. Upon Mary's death, the entire fortune is to go to Dunstan. Wettenhall advises Dunstan that he has three days to consider whether he wishes to take on the responsibility of Mary's care, which he must do to receive the inheritance. Fully intending to take on the responsibility, Dunstan immediately looks into having himself appointed her guardian. However, before the three days elapse, he receives a call from the police informing him that Wettenhall has committed suicide, and the police wish to speak to him about it. It turns out that Wettenhall had been investing his client's money in the stock market for himself. For years he had earned high returns on the investments, and paid his clients a solid return, keeping the rest for himself. He lost all of his client's money in the stock market crash of '29, and has been using Miss Shanklin's money to pay his clients and cover up his losses ever since. Her death has made that impossible, and the money that had been willed to Dunstan for Mary's care has all been spent. Thus Wettenhall takes his own life, leaving Dunstan to care for Mary out of his own pocket. Unable to afford private, round the clock care, Dunstan reluctantly commits Mary to a public hospital for the insane in Toronto. The place is horrible, but Dunstan can think of no other option; he leaves her there and returns home. In addition to caring for Mrs. Dempster, teaching, and being Boy's primary confidant, Dunstan suddenly finds himself very busy writing for theAnalecta Bollandiana, a publication of a group of Jesuits, called Bollandists, who are dedicated to hagiography (the study of saints). Although not a Catholic, and certainly not a Jesuit, in the Bollandists, Dunstan finds an educated and eager audience for his writings about saints. Very few of Dunstan's acquaintances know what the Analecta is, or why Dunstan is so proud to have his writing accepted by their scholarly editor, a leader in the field of hagiography. Boy tells all his fashionable friends that Dunstan is a writer, and gives them the impression that Dunstan writes about current events. Thus Boy's guests are forever asking Dunstan his opinion about politics, social trends, and the economy. Dunstan is diplomatic and educated enough to answer well on virtually any subject, and is a welcome addition to Boy's group of rich capitalist friends. Now thirty-four, Dunstan suffers from frequent misgivings that he has wasted his life. He has no wife or child, a teaching job that Boy considers dead-end, and part of him thinks he should go back to school, earn his PhD, and make something of his life. The other part wallows happily in his scholarship of the saints. Mainly, Dunstan believes he has made the right choices. He sees himself as a "collaborator with Destiny, not one who put a pistol to its head and demanded particular treasures. The only thing for me to do was to keep on keeping on, to have faith in my whim, and remember that for me, as for the saints, illumination when it came would probably come from some unexpected source." (pg. 193) Seeking to find a more sincere sense of belonging, Dunstan visits the Bollandists on his next trip to Europe. His Protestant upbringing has taught him to be wary of Jesuits, who he was raised to believe are wily manipulators. Instead, he finds them to be very friendly and open, and not offended by his Protestantism. The most colorful Jesuit priest he meets is a man named Padre Ignacio Blazon. Padre Blazon dresses rather theatrically, to look like a priest, although the Jesuits discourage wearing priestly vestments in public. He is loud, garrulous, and ignores many of the minor social conventions of Jesuit society. His fellow Jesuits tolerate these indignities because Blazon is a highly learned man, and a man of very advanced years. Blazon develops the habit of dining out with Dunstan, for they both share a love of food, though Blazon insists that Dunstan pay every time, in exchange for the information Blazon can provide him about the saints. If Blazon is forced to pay the bill, he insists, it will be Dunstan's responsibility to entertain him throughout the meal and make it worth the money. Dunstan pays gladly. With Blazon, Dunstan is able to discuss his overriding concern, which is what causes people to worship saints in the first place. Dunstan is intent on finding a social or spiritual explanation to explain man's need to worship fellow human beings (saints) rather than just worship divinities (i.e., God, Jesus, Mary.) Blazon insists that people love saints not because saints have risen above their humanity to a divine state, but because they are human despite their divinity. If a saint can be fat, or have a bad temper, this gives hope to cross, overweight people. Blazon and Dunstan continue this conversation as they travel together to Vienna. Blazon arranges for them to have a private car by carrying on a loud sermon in the train car until everyone has boarded; all the travelers avoid entering the car containing the apparently overly-fervent priest. Blazon winks at Dunstan as they settle in to enjoy the ride in the privacy of their car. On the way, they discuss Mary Dempster. Dunstan confides his belief that she is a saint, and explains about her three miracles. Blazon's response is that if Dunstan believes she is a saint, then to Dunstan, she is a saint. Why should he worry what anyone else thinks? But Dunstan insists that the miracles prove her sainthood. Blazon believes that miracles are commonplace, not rare. In the Middle Ages, he says, Dunstan's artificial leg would have been considered a miracle. "Life is too great a miracle for us to make so much fuss about potty little reversals of what we pompously assume to be the natural order." (pg. 200) Blazon believes the life of the flesh is a miracle in itself, and not, as the church would have it, a blasphemy against God. His personal theory is that when Jesus returns, it will be to unify the life of the flesh with the life of the spirit, to make life bearable for everybody. But all Blazon wants is to find a God who can teach him how to be old. Jesus died in his thirties, and Blazon, with all his many long years of life experience, wishes he had an older role model to follow. Blazon tells Dunstan that what matters, spiritually speaking, is an individual decision for everyone. Blazon wants a God to teach him how to be old, and Dunstan needs to discover what Mary Dempster means to him in his life. On this matter, Blazon does have some theories. He suggests that Dunstan put aside his guilt about the snowball incident. Perhaps, he suggests, Mary Dempster was meant to save him from the snowball as she saved him on the battlefield. Many men, says Blazon, have visions of their mothers on the field of battle. Why did Dunstan have a vision of Mrs. Dempster instead of his own mother? Blazon tells Dunstan he must figure out who Mrs. Dempster is in Dunstan's personal mythology. Perhaps sparing Dunstan's life at the price of Mary's sanity is God's plan. He tells Dunstan to quit feeling guilty and to get on with figuring out what it all means; otherwise, warns Blazon, Dunstan will wind up in the madhouse with his saint. The narrator interjects at this point that Padre Blazon follows up this advice by sending occasional post cards over the years, asking Dunstan if he has figured out what Mary means to him yet. Dunstan continues his weekly visits to Mary in the public mental hospital. Each Saturday she waits for him with her hat and coat on, a sign of her hope that this is the day Dunstan will take her away from the madhouse. Each week she is disappointed anew. Dunstan consoles himself with the knowledge that she does enjoy his visits, but ultimately he feels that she is the part of his soul that is condemned to a living hell. By now, Dunstan's first book has been well-received, and he is collecting material for a follow-up book, even as he continues to write for the Analecta. He continues to hold his place in Boy's entourage, although he feels that Boy is to some extent using him. Dunstan is always good for a last minute invitation when a more important friend calls and cancels, and Dunstan can be relied on to keep the dullest guests company, saving the livelier guests from this bother. Nonetheless, Dunstan really does like Boy, is grateful for his financial advice, and enjoys meeting the interesting people at Boy's parties. Sex dominates Boy's life to a degree that fascinates and horrifies Dunstan. Boy's sexual energy is channeled into everything that he does; being manly is of the utmost importance. Boy raises his son David under impossible to meet standards of manhood, and spoils his daughter Caroline rotten. Leola still loves Boy desperately, but she is the only one on whom he expends none of his sexual power, except in the form of bullying. Dunstan tries to stand up for Leola, but if he says anything negative about Boy, she takes her husband's side. Boy has confided an astounding number of marital infidelities to Dunstan over the years, and Dunstan has always kept his secrets. The type of sex that Boy requires sounds exhausting to Dunstan; Boy describes sex as if it were a round of boxing. Another facet to Boy's sexuality which intrigues Dunstan is what he calls Boy's Corporation Homosexuality. Boy is unconscious of the homosexual element that Dunstan sees in Boy's associations with young, up-and-coming employees. Boy latches onto a clean-cut, good-looking and promising young man with the intent of helping him up the corporate ladder. Boy mentors the young man, providing opportunities in abundance, until the young man begins to take it all for granted. When this happens, the protygy begins to resent, rather than admire, his boss, and Boy finds himself disillusioned. Not one of these many young men ever succeeds in Boy's company; they usually wind up being set up in some out of the way office or department to live out their days in a middle-management dead end. During the Christmas season of 1936, Leola finally awakens to the fact that her husband is a philanderer. On December 11, the Crown Prince, Boy's hero and now the young King, is forced to abdicate from his throne. This sends Boy into a black fury of depression, and come Christmas day, Boy's surly attitude makes his family miserable. Dunstan remains at the Staunton home to soothe the upset children after Boy announces he is going to take a walk by himself. Leola rushes to get his coat so that he won't get a chill; while looking for his gloves in the coat pocket, she finds a note from one of his lovers. She begins howling, and Boy, instantly realizing what she has found, responds angrily. "'Your situation is perfectly secure,"' he tells her. "'But if you think I intend to be tied down to this sort of thing' - and he gestured toward the drawing room, which was, I must say, a dismal, toy-littered waste of wealthy, frumpish domesticity - 'you can think again.' And off he went, leaving Leola howling." (pg. 214) She disappears to her room. After a while, Dunstan goes up to check on her. Leola asks him to kiss her, and when he pecks her lightly, she insists he give her a real kiss. Dunstan thinks of the story of Gyges and King Candaules again, and kisses her again, with more warmth. Half in mind to cuckold Boy Staunton, Dunstan recovers himself and hurries out of the bedroom. She begins to cry that he doesn't love her, which is all too true. It's been at least ten years since Dunstan has thought of Leola with anything but pity, he thinks, and he does not intend to become a victim of her self-pity. Dunstan leaves and goes about his business. When he returns to his room at the school a few hours later, he finds an urgent message to call the Stauntons at once. The children's nurse answers the phone and insists he come to the house immediately. When Dunstan arrives, he finds Leola's wrists bound with white gauze and the bathtub full of blood. The nurse hands him Leola's suicide note, which is addressed not to Boy, but to Dunstan. She has written that she always loved Dunstan, and that she is killing herself because neither he nor Boy ever loved her. Dunstan is infuriated by her selfishness. If she had died, he would have looked like a monster at the inquest. But when she comes to, Dunstan doesn't have the heart to mention the note; they never speak of it. Boy cannot be found until after the New Year. Dunstan never learns what transpires between husband and wife upon Boy's return, but afterwards they go on as usual, although Leola begins to look much older than her years. Dunstan believes that the children are suffering the most from this incident. Many years later, David would confide in Dunstan that he hates Christmas more than anything else in the world. Chapter 4 Analysis The wise voice of Padre Ignacio Blazon is introduced in this chapter to provide guidance for Dunstan Ramsay. Padre Blazon speaks of his wish for a God who can teach him how to be old. The Jesuit priest feels a lack of guidance from the figure of Jesus, who died in his thirties and thus is unable to provide a role model for Padre Blazon in his elder years. Blazon's loving, spiritual response to his own dilemma is to provide a role model for Dunstan Ramsay. He shows Dunstan the importance of man's search for meaning. In this, he confirms Dunstan's own views. Dunstan believes in Fate, and believes it is each man's job to discover and co-create their individuals fates. Padre Blazon confirms that this is the meaning of life. Their similar beliefs make Blazon an excellent role model and father figure to Dunstan. Dunstan's own father had died young, and yet even while he was alive, Dunstan didn't consider him an appropriate role model. Mr. Ramsay had given into his wife about everything, and had been unable to show Dunstan how to become his own man. Blazon is the opposite, very much his own man. Blazon, like Dunstan, enjoys a little rebellion. Thus he dresses and behaves in ways he knows will irritate his Jesuit brethren, to mark his independence of thought. His well-learned and intelligent mind is much respected by the other Jesuits, and so even his disrespect is tolerated, as is his independent thinking. Padre Blazon is perhaps the first open-minded man of the cloth Dunstan has ever met, and it is natural for Dunstan to seek his guidance about Mrs. Dempster. The narrow-minded Catholic priest in Deptford tells Dunstan she is, at best, a fool-saint, yet Padre Blazon encourages Dunstan in his belief that she is truly one of God's saints. Blazon does not give Dunstan's beliefs a seal of approval, but rather reminds him that it is a waste of time to seek the approval of men. Blazon encourages Dunstan to be himself, to develop his own beliefs, and to always seek to better himself through a continual, open-minded study of life. Padre Blazon represents the man Dunstan wants to be, and by admiring Blazon, he is actually accepting himself for who he is. At this stage in the story, Dunstan has not yet discovered the truth about Mrs. Dempster's role in his life, or the role he himself is fated to play, but the author hints, through Blazon, that it is the search for discovery which provides the ultimate meaning. Chapter 5 Summary World War II increases Boy Staunton's stature as an industrialist. He is appointed Minister of Food in a coalition Cabinet, and does a wonderful job of feeding the population of Canada and its armed services, and even feeding Great Britain. "If the average height of the people of the British Isles is rather greater today than it was in 1939, much of the credit must go to Boy Staunton. He was one of the few men, not a professional scientist, who really knew what a vitamin was and where it could be found and put to work cheaply." (pg. 219) The position keeps him away from home for most of the war, and he becomes further estranged from his wife and children, even his beloved daughter Caroline. His son David is now a boarder at Colborne, where Dunstan keeps a fatherly eye on the twelve-year-old. Two years later, in 1942, it falls to Dunstan to inform David of his mother's death. Leola dies of pneumonia, but Dunstan thinks it suspicious that Leola had opened the windows on such a cold winter afternoon. Fourteen-year-old David's alarming reaction is that Leola is better off. Boy is in England and unable to return for the funeral; he asks Dunstan to take care of it all, which he does. Dunstan keeps David close by his side for several days at school, and during the funeral. Milo Papple shows up to pay his respects, and comments how hard it must be for Dunstan to lose Leola for the second time. Dunstan is ashamed that he feels no sense of loss whatsoever. In 1947, Boy returns for good from his war efforts in Europe and gives Dunstan some bad news. Dunstan has been serving as temporary Headmaster since the former Headmaster died. With the war on, they had been unable to find a replacement, and Dunstan had been doing all the work for no additional salary. He expects to be offered the job and additional compensation as soon as the war is over, but instead Boy tells him that the Board wants to hire a married man. Dunstan offers to get married, but Boy admits the board is looking for someone more conventional; Dunstan's interest in saints has given him a reputation for being eccentric. At this point, the narrator tells the Headmaster, for whom he is writing this chronicle, that the man, Boy chose, was of course the Headmaster himself. Dunstan is furious to be cast aside by Boy and the Board after eighteen months of thankless service, doing double duty as teacher and acting Headmaster. He insists that the Board help him save face by announcing that Dunstan has turned down the job due to his writing commitments; Dunstan also insists on a six-month, paid leave of absence, so that he can visit the shrines of Latin America. Thus, the narrator finds himself, a few months later, at the Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. He sits in the shrine day after day and wonders what will happen to mercy, compassion, and divine wonder in the face of the rising industrialization of America. The world is freeing itself from belief in God, and putting its faith in modernity, capitalism, and science. The narrator insists he has nothing against financial and educational advances, he just wonders at what price they come. Just as in his younger days, he still wonders why people have faith in miracles and wonders. He wonders if it is a childish escape from reality, or if it is a recognition of some deeper knowledge we all hold, that the miraculous is actually a part of reality. Dunstan only spends part of each day on such speculation; the rest he spends in light- hearted tourism. He sees a notice in the paper of a magic show, and enthusiastically reserves a theater seat. His love of magic has never fully died, and he has seen many great illusionists in his time, including the remarkable Harry Houdini. He has, however, never heard of the magician scheduled to perform that night's show - a man named Magnus Eisengrim. The show captivates him immediately. Unlike most magic shows, it is artistic rather than merely showy and entertaining. The illusions are ghostly and dramatic in a dark, sexual, yet elegant way. When he sees Magnus Eisengrim take the stage, he recognizes him at once as Paul Dempster. The final, climactic illusion is based on the story of Faust, and a beautiful woman plays the roles of Gretchen and of the goddess Venus. Her stage name is Faustina. After the show, Dunstan is summoned backstage at the request of the magician Eisengrim. A horrifyingly ugly and manly-looking woman takes him to Eisengrim's dressing room, where he finds Eisengrim arguing amicably with Faustina about the stage lighting. Eisengrim makes polite but unenthusiastic conversation; it is evident to Dunstan that Paul does not really want him to be there, so he prepares to leave. However, the ugly woman, whose name is Liesl, insists that he accompany them to lunch the next day. Before he leaves, Paul thanks him for the "temporary loan," a reference to having stolen Dunstan's wallet at their last meeting. Paul taps him lightly on the pocket where Dunstan hides his cash. When Dunstan gets back to his hotel room, he finds that the stolen money has been replaced with interest. He begins to think better of Magnus Eisengrim. Liesl and Paul meet him for lunch the next day. Liesl turns out to be Paul's partner, and a student of hagiography. She has read several of Dunstan's books, and wants him to write Magnus Eisengrim's autobiography. She wants Dunstan in particular, because the fictional biography of the fictional Eisengrim should be, she thinks, a mythical story along the lines of the life of a saint. Now fifty-years-old, Dunstan cannot resist the adventure. From that day forward, he becomes a part of Eisengrim's entourage, and agrees to write the book. Dunstan takes pleasure in watching Eisengrim perform so brilliantly the tricks he taught him as a boy. Eisengrim has found his true calling, and cares deeply about every aspect of his show. The tour in Mexico is designed to perfect the show; Paul wants to take it international and hopes to become a huge name like Houdini, or better. Dunstan makes several good suggestions, including cutting a less valuable act so that Liesl can incorporate a thought- reading number called the Brazen Head. Picking the pockets of the guests as they wait in line, and eavesdropping on their conversations accomplish the Brazen Head scheme. All the items are replaced in the guests' pockets, and when the Brazen Head randomly makes psychic predictions about certain audience members, the chosen few are astounded at how the head could possibly know such personal things about them. It is Liesl who provides the voice of the head and decides what it will say. Meanwhile Dunstan finds himself falling hopelessly in love with the young, empty-headed Faustina. In addition, for the first time in his life, Dunstan finds himself gossiping endlessly. He spills all of his secrets to Liesl, despite the fact that she is not a discreet woman, and likely to repeat his confidences to others. Liesl reassures him that he should not live with the pressure of so many secrets, and that it is good for his soul to release them. Liesl further tells him that his obsession with Mary Dempster is a result of his inability to connect with his fellow human beings. "That horrid village and your hateful Scots family made you a moral monster. Well, it is not too late for you to enjoy a few years of almost normal humanity." (pg. 250) For the moment, all of Dunstan's feelings towards his fellow human beings are directed at the beautiful Faustina. Despite the hopelessness of his love, he lies awake at nights, tormented by thoughts of her. The fact that she is too empty-headed to appreciate his scholarly accomplishments makes him question the value of everything he's ever done with his life. Faustina is Eisengrim's mistress, but this does not threaten Dunstan because he believes Eisengrim's true love affair is with himself. What strikes him to the core, however, is discovering Faustina one day, making love in her dressing room to Liesl. That night, Liesl knocks on his door, quite late. She invites herself in and tells him she noticed him watching her and Faustina that afternoon. Liesl tells him that life is not a spectator sport, and it is his own fault he has never made a pass at Faustina. Dunstan has thought only of his being a poor prospect for her to consider marriage; he never considered merely loving her physically. Yet this, insists Liesl, is Faustina's destiny - not marriage to some dull, stodgy academic. Liesl ends her speech by making a pass at Dunstan. When he tries to refuse, she fights him to the bed. He pushes her off and she grabs his wooden leg, which he has taken off for the night, and beats him with it mercilessly, trying to get him to submit to her lust. Dunstan's Highland temper ignites and he takes the leg from her, backing her into a corner. Dropping the weapon, he punches her several times. As she turns to retreat out the door, he grabs her nose between his fingers and gives it a parting twist. After Liesl flees, Dunstan finds that he feels better than he's felt in years. Moments later, Liesl humbly taps on his door; she has left her room key inside. His spite forgotten, Dunstan invites her in and attends to her bruises. They share a drink, and Liesl explains that she only wanted to remind Dunstan that he is human. She tells him he is decent to everyone except to himself. Liesl was raised Calvinist, she tells him, and knows something about the cruel moral oppression of religion. "'But you - there is a whole great piece of your life that is unlived, denied, set aside. That is why at fifty, you can't bear it any longer and fly all to pieces and pour out your heart to the first really intelligent woman you have met - me, that's to say - and get into a schoolboy yearning for a girl who is as far from you as if she lived on the moon. This is the revenge of the unlived life, Ramsay. Suddenly it makes a fool of you."' (pg. 260) She goes on to tell him that he needs to get to know the devil a little, his personal devil. She is not advising him to throw over his moral code, but merely to do something inexplicable and irrational for once. She insists it would be good for him, and it would help him get to know himself. To further that end, Liesl tells him who she thinks he is. To her mind, Dunstan's role in life is the role of Fifth Business. Liesl explains that on the opera stages of Europe, one must have a Prima Dona heroine, a tenor who plays her lover, a contralto to play the female rival, and a basso who plays the villain or the male rival. But, she says, the plot cannot work without another man, usually a baritone, to play the odd man out. This man is called Fifth Business because he has no partner of the opposite sex. His presence is necessary to advance the plot, however, because he is the secret-keeper and the conscience of the hero, and the man who comes to the rescue of the heroine. Fifth Business is integral to the plot, but not a part of the central drama; it is a crucial, supporting role. Having said her piece, Liesl at last accomplishes her goal of seducing Dunstan. To his surprise, he finds the experience delightful, tender, and healing. Chapter 5 Analysis Dunstan's magical time spent with the cast and crew of Eisengrim's show is written in a style that evokes the Magic Realism genre, although the magical elements are confined to the show itself. For the first time in his life, Dunstan allows his creative imagination full play. He and Paul Dempster have come very far from the narrow-minded village of Deptford, indeed. Stage magic and religious mysticism are intertwined in the mind of the narrator, and thus he is fully captivated by Eisengrim's allusions to good and evil in his magic show. The tribute to Faust symbolizes the war between God and the Devil, and helps to underscore Dunstan's internal war between what he considers good, and what he considers evil. The author, Robertson Davies, is noted for his interest in the theories of Carl Jung, and Jung's concept of making friends with one's dark side, or shadow-self, is similar to St. Dunstan making friends with his devil, Liesl. Liesl gets him to see that good and evil have various definitions, and that the definitions he learned in the murky religious environment of Deptford are not necessarily true. Her perspective liberates Dunstan's spirit from the moral tyranny he has imposed upon himself. But for her trouble, Dunstan characterizes Liesl as the Devil. Her attempts to talk him into broadening his moral perspective sound, to St. Dunstan's ears, like the devil's logic. Ultimately, he gives in to this devil's logic, and to his surprise, finds it a balm to his soul. The chapter ends before Dunstan has a chance to return to his normal life; thus the reader cannot be sure at this point how he will incorporate his new experiences and knowledge into his former frame of reference. And so the author has set up the events to be unfolded in the next and final chapter by sending Dunstan back to his schoolteacher's life with a whole new perspective. As the reader will recall, the beginning of this chapter relates the growing problems in Dunstan's regular life. Boy's treatment of Leola and of the narrator himself has degenerated. Dunstan has always in the past been relied on by Boy to clean up Boy's messes. However, the beginning of this chapter shows Dunstan so fed up with Boy and his messes that he must flee to South America to escape them. Now that Dunstan has met his personal devil, personified by Liesl, and made friends with him, the reader can be sure he will return to Colborne College a changed man. What this will mean to his friendship with Boy remains to be seen, but it seems doubtful that Dunstan will continue his complicity with Boy's schemes by continuing to keep his secrets. Chapter 6 Summary Dunstan enjoys writing the autobiography of Magnus Eisengrim. He does not need to worry about fact-checking or historical accuracy. For the first time in his writing career, he lets his imagination run wild and writes whatever he wishes. He produces a book which he himself would enjoy reading about a magician's life, and the book becomes a best seller, although it is published under a pen name. For Eisengrim he invents a persona that is grim, fascinating, sexy, and driven to succeed through hard work. The public eats it up, and Eisengrim's star soars. Before he leaves to return to Colborne, Dunstan convinces Eisengrim to contribute financially to his mother's upkeep. Wisely, Liesl suggests they set up an automatic payment at the bank so that Eisengrim will not forget or change his mind. He parts from Liesl as friends, and returns to his normal life. Dunstan uses the money to offset the cost of moving Mrs. Dempster to a private hospital, which greatly improves her circumstances. However, Eisengrim's financial generosity causes Dunstan to make a major tactical error. He tells Mrs. Dempster that he has found Paul. In Mary Dempster's mind, Paul is still a boy of ten. Dunstan's news creates an emotional crisis as she is forced to confront the reality that he has been missing all these years. Dunstan informs her that Paul is now a man over forty, with a demanding career, and is currently unable to visit her, but that he is supporting her financially. Mrs. Dempster takes from this conversation the notion that Dunstan Ramsey is a snake in the grass who has pretended to be her friend, but who is only keeping her in the hospital to prevent her from seeing Paul. She attempts to scratch his eyes out, and is restrained by hospital staff. The hospital bars him from visiting her as she has taken a permanent turn for the worse and is now kept under restraints full time. As he laments this loss, Dunstan suffers another loss of sorts. Boy remarries, this time to a powerful woman, a feminist, political activist, who holds much clout. Denyse Hornick is a wily woman who captivates the notoriously fickle heart of Boy Staunton by playing hard to get. Boy works long and hard to convince her to marry him, and in the end, she graciously concedes. A great many important people show up for the wedding, and a good time is had by all - except for David and Caroline. Leola's children dislike Denyse, and resent her gawky daughter, Lorene. Unfortunately for Dunstan, Boy's new wife does not care for him, and his former intimate association with the Staunton household is curtailed after the wedding. Dunstan believes that Denyse regards him as anti-feminist, and indeed their views on women are quite divergent. Denyse is as ambitious as Boy, and she has her sights set on getting him appointed Lieutenant-Governor. This is a complicated plan, as Boy suffers from a lack of political popularity. His efforts to run for office in the past have not gone well, as the voters have a tough time identifying with a rich capitalist who fails to court the populist vote. However, Denyse believes she can succeed in having him appointed Lieutenant-Governor, which would make Boy an officer of the Crown; given his continuing love for the royal family, this idea suits Boy well. The narrator notices that as Boy ages, his worst qualities from childhood seem to be resurfacing. As a boy, he had been a bully, a braggart, and a poor loser. As a young man, Boy had learned to hide these characteristics, just as Dunstan had learned to soften the sharp tongue he wielded in boyhood. However Dunstan realizes that he himself has reverted to his childhood habit of "getting off 'good ones,"' and he notices that "Boy Staunton had reached a point in life where he no longer tried to conceal his naked wish to dominate everybody and was angry and ugly when things went against him. As we neared our sixties the cloaks we had wrapped about our essential selves were wearing thin." (pg.279) Mrs. Dempster dies the year after Boy's wedding. Dunstan blames himself for having broken her spirits by telling her about Paul. Towards the end, she suffers many minor ailments, and her mind is bent on paranoid rage. She considers Dunstan the evil architect of her life, and his visits are reduced to peeping through the keyhole at her. Dunstan refuses to allow the doctors to medicate her for her emotional state, although they treat her for her physical maladies. Although he can see that the end is near, Dunstan is still surprised to receive the call from the hospital telling him of her heart attack and advising him to come see her immediately, for her time is short. At the hospital, the nurse assures him Mary has been asking for him, and so Dunstan goes in to speak with her for the first time in years. Mary opens her eyes and asks him if he is Dunstable Ramsay. Dunstan agrees that he is; after a long silence, Mary tells him that she thought Dunstable was a boy. Half an hour later, she dies in her sleep. Dunstable weeps as he has not done since the time his mother beat him as a boy; not even during the worst of the war did he cry. Before sending her corpse for cremation, Dunstan sniffs her body to see if she smells of violets, as it is said that the bodies of dead saints give off such an odor. Unfortunately, he cannot tell, for the funeral home has given the body a dose of Chanel No. 5. The summer after her death, Dunstan returns to Europe to visit the Bollandists. He hopes they will compliment him on his new book about saints, and he also hopes to see Padre Blazon. Blazon, now extremely old, is in a hospital in Vienna, and Dunstan makes the trip to visit him. Blazon, coy about his age, but admitting to being on the far side of one-hundred, is thrilled to see Dunstan. He compliments Dunstan's new book, and asks about Dunstan's fool-saint. Dunstan is surprised to hear Blazon refer to Mary Dempster with that term. Blazon has never used it before, but the Catholic priest in Deptford had introduced him to the term fool-saint some years before, when Dunstan had asked if Mrs. Dempster's three miracles qualified her for sainthood. When Blazon hears that Dunstan asked the village priest about this, he chides him for being so foolish. Blazon asks to be refreshed about the details of Mary's life before rendering his own opinion. After thinking it over, Padre Blazon says that Mary Dempster lived her life heroically; she had a hard fate, but endured it well. This makes her a hero in God's cause, to Blazon's way of thinking. Blazon suggests that there would be nothing wrong with Dunstan honoring Mary Dempster in his prayers on All Saints' Day, for Dunstan's life has been illuminated by his fool-saint. After making this pronunciation, Blazon changes the topic to the Devil, and asks Dunstan if he has met his own devil yet. Dunstan tells him all about Liesl, sparing no detail, and Padre Blazon listens to the story with great relish and theatrical prudery - especially at the part where Dunstan finds Liesl making love to Faustina. Blazon laughs uproariously to hear that Dunstan twisted Liesl's nose in the hotel room, just as St. Dunstan twisted the Devil's nose when the Devil appeared to the saint in the guise of a beautiful woman. All in all, Blazon approves of Dunstan's meeting with the Devil, agreeing that a little compromise did not hurt Dunstan's character, and in fact likely has improved it. Blazon tells him he is fit to be the Devil's friend, without fear of losing himself to Him. Dunstan asks Blazon if he has found a God to help him be old, and Blazon assures him he has indeed. The old friends part for what will likely be the final time. With this visit fresh on his mind, Dunstan visits Salzburg to view a special display of saint statuary in the local Cathedral. Here, years after having abandoned his search, he finds the Little Madonna which he had seen in the war, the night he lost his leg and almost died. He examines her closely and realizes that she does not bear Mary Dempster's face, although the resemblance is great. Dunstan visits his Madonna every day for a week, engraving her forever in his memory and heart. Here the narrator interjects to remind his audience, the Headmaster at Colborne College, of the details of Boy Staunton's death. The details had all been published in the newspaper at the time, given the unusual circumstances and the stature of the deceased, however Dunstan now wishes to reveal to the Headmaster the truth behind the mysterious death. The papers reported only that Boy Staunton's body had been recovered from his Cadillac convertible, which had found its way to the bottom of Toronto harbor, apparently entering the water at high speed. Boy was found gripping the steering wheel tightly, and in his mouth, the police were puzzled to find a stone - an ordinary pinkish granite stone approximately the same size as a small egg. Boy, in death, becomes a hero to the same press that had been his enemy throughout his political campaigns. Boy dies just a few days before it is to be made public that he has been appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. The funeral is a great affair; Denyse invites all the most prominent citizens, and everyone arrives to pay tribute. In Boy's obituary, Denyse is described in glowing terms, but Leola is scarcely mentioned. Denyse prevails upon Dunstan to write the official autobiography of Boy's life. Dunstan does not know how he can refuse, but the thought of having to write such a memoir makes him ill. As a historian trained to suppress nothing, Dunstan cannot imagine how he can possibly write the positive memoir which Denyse expects, for he knows too many of Boy's dirty secrets. Fortunately for Dunstan, he suffers a heart attack a few days later, and thus is let off the hook regarding the memoir. For the truth of Boy's death is something the narrator plans to reveal to no one besides the Headmaster, who he is certain will keep the matter to himself. It begins with Magnus Eisengrim's tour of Canada. Now a great celebrity, Eisengrim arrives in Toronto for a two- week run of his show. Dunstan spends a great deal of time visiting with his old friends in the show, including Eisengrim and Liesl, although the beautiful Faustina has been replaced by a younger model. Dunstan invites Eisengrim to speak at Colborne College, and the young men greatly enjoy his demonstration of hypnotism. After the talk, Dunstan introduces Eisengrim to Boy. Boy, not realizing Eisengrim's true identity, is thrilled to meet the famous magician, and tells him that he had seen the show the previous week and greatly enjoyed it. Eisengrim responds that he knows Boy was in the audience; Boy actually came two nights in a row, and Eisengrim even remembers his seat numbers. Eisengrim tells him that the Brazen Head had chosen not to reveal Boy's appointment to Lieutenant-Governor as a courtesy to Boy. Boy is shocked that Eisengrim could know this, but Eisengrim points out that Boy is carrying an official letter bearing that news in his pocket at this very moment. The three men set off for Dunstan's room to have a drink together; Boy can tell that Eisengrim does not like him, and this makes Boy determined to win him over. Dunstan notices a strong tension between them, but is irritated when Boy tries to charm Eisengrim by making fun of Dunstan. Eisengrim stands up for Dunstan, so Boy changes tactics; Boy tells the magician that he and Dunstan go way back, having come from the same small village of Deptford. Eisengrim reveals that he, too, comes from Deptford, and, to further astound Boy, Eisengrim tells him that Dunstan is the author of Eisengrim's best-selling biography. Eisengrim reveals that he is actually Paul Dempster, and that Dunstan was his first magic teacher. In a voice dripping with rancor, Eisengrim tells Boy that he remembers him clearly; he always thought of Boy in those days as the Rich Young Ruler. Eisengrim reveals more of his past, telling them how he wound up running away with the circus. Apparently young Paul had been lured by a conjurer, the man who was later known as Le Solitaire, but who was actually a morphine addict and a pedophile. By the time Paul realized his mistake, the man had him in captivity, and treated him like a slave. The man convinced Paul that if anyone found out about their sexual activities, ten-year-old Paul would be sent to jail, or perhaps even hung. Fear chained Paul to his side for years, and by the time he was old enough to escape, he had accepted his lot, and even come to feel loyalty and duty towards the pedophile. Eisengrim likens his irrational loyalty to the irrational loyalty that Dunstan had felt for his mother, Mrs. Dempster. Eisengrim reminds Boy that Boy had often called his mother a whore - or "hoor," which was the colloquialism used in the village. Eisengrim explains that this is what inspired him to run away in the first place. However, Boy does not even remember having insulted Mrs. Dempster. In fact, Boy does not remember the Dempster family at all - not Mary, not Paul, not even the Reverend Amasa Dempster. Boy states that he does not remember things that have no use to him. Dunstan is shocked to learn that Boy has edited his memories so thoroughly that he does not even remember the incident with the snowball. Dunstan reflects that Boy only remembers the good things, while Paul seems to have edited his memories so that he only remembers the bad. Dunstan wonders for a moment what memories he himself has edited of his own life. He does not have to wonder long, for as Paul discusses the names they have chosen for themselves - commenting that Percy Boyd Staunton had chosen to forever remain a Boy, Dunstan had become a Saint, and Eisengrim is a name which means Wolf - Paul also reveals that Dunstan is not as tight-lipped a secret-keeper as he imagines himself to be. Dunstan apparently told young Paul that Percy's mother called the Rich Young Ruler by the nickname Pidgy Boy-Boy. Dunstan is shocked, thinking he had always kept Boy's secrets, even that one. But Paul reminds him that he told Paul about the embarrassing nickname to cheer up Paul one day after Percy had called his mother a hoor. Dunstan comments that all three men have changed their names and become something their parents could not have foreseen. Dunstan tells them how Diana renamed him during the time when Dunstan had finally broken with his mother. Liesl had called Dunstan one of the twice-born because of this name change. Eisengrim remembers Dunstan's mother, and what a hard woman she was. Dunstan tells him that she had a softer side as well; for the first time Paul learns about all the months Mrs. Ramsay had spent helping him survive when he was a newborn, after the fateful snowball incident. He is surprised to learn that Mrs. Ramsay had paid him the compliment of calling him a "fighter." Disconcerted by this news, Eisengrim reaches for a cigar. But what he thought was a cigar box is actually the box containing his own mother's ashes. Stunned, Boy asks Dunstan why he would keep Mrs. Dempster's ashes. Dunstan replies that he keeps them out of guilt. Eisengrim asks why Dunstan should feel guilty about his mother, and at long last, Dunstan reveals the story of the snowball. Boy is unmoved by the story. He tells Dunstan that he has long since forgotten it, and that Dunstan should forget it, too; they were just boys, after all. Dunstan is not prepared to let it go so easily; he feels his role as Fifth Business calling him to serve as Boy's conscience. With that in mind, he hands Boy the stone which he has long used as a paperweight, and asks Boy if he recognizes it. Boy says naturally he recognizes Dunstan's paperweight. "'It is the stone you put in the snowball you threw at Mrs. Dempster,' I said. 'I've kept it because I couldn't part with it. I swear I never meant to tell you what it was. But, Boy, for God's sake, get to know something about yourself. The stone-in-the-snowball has been characteristic of too much you've done for you to forget it forever!"' (pg. 305) Boy responds unpleasantly, accusing Dunstan of ingratitude after all the financial advice Boy has given him over the years. He feels that Dunstan and Eisengrim are in league against him, and accuses Dunstan of wanting revenge for losing Leola. Dunstan's sharp tongue asserts itself as he tells Boy that Boy got the woman he deserved. Eisengrim stands and announces he must leave. Boy offers him a ride, and Eisengrim accepts, saying that Dunstan's revelation has put Boy in debt to Eisengrim, but that he will forgive the moral debt in exchange for a ride. As they leave, Dunstan offers Paul his mother's ashes, but Paul tells him he already has everything he needs. Not until the next morning, after Boy's death is announced, does Dunstan realize his paperweight is missing. The Saturday after Boy's funeral, Dunstan attends Eisengrim's magic show. When the moment arrives for the Brazen Head to make its predictions, an audience member calls out for the head to tell them who killed Boy Staunton. The head responds that he was killed by the usual suspects: himself, by the woman he knew, by the woman he did not know, by the man who granted his deepest wish, and by the inevitable fifth man, the keeper of his conscience and the keeper of the stone. Sitting in the theater box, listening to this revelation, Dunstan has his heart attack. While he is incapacitated, Denyse uses her influence to hound the police, but no killer is ever found. When Dunstan recovers, he receives a postcard from Liesl, apologizing for her role in giving him a heart attack, and inviting him to join the company in Switzerland. The narrator ends his story by advising the Headmaster that there is no more to the tale. The narrator lists the date and location in which this chronicle was written as Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, 1970. Chapter 6 Analysis It is only when the final secrets are revealed that the reader learns just how close-mouthed Dunstan Ramsay has been. Not once in all the previous discussions of the snowball incident has Dunstan revealed the presence of the stone inside the snowball. The stone, nearly the size of an egg, drastically changes the seriousness of Percy's offense. Mrs. Dempster was not a frail young woman who slipped in the snow after being hit by a childish snowball. She was the victim of assault with an actual weapon, an assault which Percy had intended for Dunstan. All these years Dunstan has kept the stone as a paperweight. Each day, as he looked at the stone, it was an ever-present reminder for him. But a reminder of what? That Percy had once nearly killed him? That Mrs. Dempster's injury and resulting fate could have been his own? Did it remind him of his own complicity in the grown-up Percy's schemes? The stone in the snowball helps clarify, for the reader, the reasons behind Dunstan's antipathy towards Boy. However, the narrator does not reveal his own judgment about what the stone should mean to Boy Staunton. As is typical of the narrator's character, he presents the stone in order for Boy to increase his own self-understanding. For Dunstan, the meaning of life is the search for meaning. Dunstan at last assumes his role as Fifth Business by providing the critical information which Boy and Paul lack. Only by revealing the secret about the stone can Dunstan provide them both with the means to resolve their own personal dramas. Thus the meaning of Dunstan's life is to act as a catalyst for Boy and Eisengrim, protagonist and antagonist, respectively, in Dunstan's life story. At least, this is what Dunstan believes. It is clear to the reader, however, that Dunstan is his own protagonist. His life is not a passive observation of Boy Staunton's life. By choosing to reveal the stone in the presence of Eisengrim, Dunstan is taking a very bold action. Dunstan is not merely a catalyst for the ensuing murder, he is actually its engineer. Having shared painful and powerful information in the past, such as telling Mrs. Dempster about Paul, Dunstan is all too aware of how powerfully certain information can affect others. Thus by revealing Boy as the architect of Paul's mother's destruction, he is attempting to encourage Paul's revenge. For Dunstan, in his heart, feels that Boy deserves to be punished. Yet Dunstan admits none of this to himself. He swears to Boy that he has only revealed the truth about the snowball incident in order that Boy learn something about himself. Yet if that were so, he could have revealed it to Boy alone. Instead, he chooses to reveal Boy's crime in the presence of Paul, all but guaranteeing that Paul will seek revenge and Boy will be punished at last. Thus Dunstan, far from being the passive fifth character in this drama, is the wizard behind the curtain who manipulates events to suit his personal sense of justice. Dunstan's heart attack confirms this theory, for he has the heart attack in the theater when Liesl, speaking through the Brazen Head, accuses him of being part of the cabal which murdered Boy Staunton. Recognizing the truth of Liesl's accusation sends Dunstan into cardiac arrest. Ever since Dunstan traveled to South America and befriended his dark side (as symbolized by Liesl in Chapter V), it has been clear that Dunstan would use this dark side in some way to resolve the issues between him and Boy. Thus the confidant betrays Boy's confidence in the end, and, in so doing, engineers Boy's destruction. Unwilling to accept his own vengeful motives at first, Dunstan responds to the Brazen Head's accusation with a heart attack. However, after thinking it over, Dunstan embraces his decision, and leaves behind the book as a confession, to be read after his death. The narrator does not directly state that he accepts the responsibility for Boy's death, but he indicates this indirectly by accepting Liesl's invitation to visit the magic show in Switzerland. Liesl knows the truth about Dunstan's role in Boy's death, and by inviting him to Switzerland, she is indicating her acceptance of the murder. She accepts Dunstan's choice, Paul's subsequent actions, and sees Boy's murder as delayed justice for Paul's mother. Dunstan goes off to meet his devil in the end, and thus indicates that he, too, accepts Paul's choice to kill Boy, as well as his own role in bringing about the murderous circumstances. Deptford Deptford is the quaint, old-fashioned Canadian village at the heart of this novel by Robertson Davies. Including Fifth Business, author Davies wrote three books centered on Deptford, which is reminiscent of his own childhood home. The village of Deptford has many of the sterling, moral characteristics associated with small-town living. However, in its heart lurks much darkness and evil as well, which the narrator explores throughout the novel. No matter how far from Deptford life takes protagonist Dunstan Ramsay, he is always called back in spirit to revisit the joys and the follies of his youth. Colborne College Colborne College is the name of the private men's college where Dunstan Ramsay spends his long teaching career. During the Second World War, Dunstan serves as acting Headmaster. Boy Staunton got his degree from Colborne, and later, as a prominent businessman, serves on the Board of Directors, making him, in effect, Dunstan's boss. A Hundred Saints for Travelers This is Dunstan Ramsay's first published book. As the title implies, it describes the statues of saints which can be found by journeying through the churches Europe. Hagiography The study of saints; hagiography is Dunstan Ramsey's chief passion in life. The Analecta A serial publication dedicated to hagiography, published by the Bollandist sect of Jesuit priests. The Bollandists and the Analecta are considered the foremost experts on the study of Catholic saints. Therefore Dunstan is thrilled when they first accept his work, and their continued approval of his scholarly writings about hagiography is the bar by which he measures his success as a student of the saints. The Stone Paperweight Not revealed until the end of the story, the stone paperweight which Dunstan keeps with him over the years is actually the very same stone that Percy Boyd Staunton put inside the snowball he threw at Mrs. Dempster when he and Dunstan were children. St. Dunstan's Tongs Dunstable Ramsey is renamed by his lover Diana after St. Dunstan, who, according to legend, once used a pair of silver tongs to twist the Devil's nose when the Devil appeared to him in the guise of a beautiful woman. The Little Madonna On the dark night during World War I when Dunstable Ramsay is at death's door, he sees a divine vision that he credits for saving his life. Bleeding from the shrapnel that burns in his leg, Dunstable seeks shelter in a ruin. When he looks up, he realizes that he is in the ruins of a church, and comes face to face with a statue of the Virgin Mary that bears the exact likeness of Mary Dempster's face. Dunstable spends years searching for the statue after the war. His growing knowledge of religious statuary teaches him that the statue is called a Little Madonna, and depicts Mother Mary with her holy son. But not until very late in his life does Dunstable, now Dunstan, find the actual statue. In reality, the Little Madonna does not look as much like Mrs. Dempster as it did on the night of his vision. The Brazen Head A clever mechanical stage prop designed by Liesl for Magnus Eisengrim's magic show. The Brazen Head act consists of Liesl's voice intoning predictions and revealing secrets about the audience members. This trick is accomplished by sending spies into the audience before the show, to eavesdrop on their conversations and to secretly rifle through their belongings. At the end of the novel, the Brazen Head's revealing answer to the question, Who killed Boy Staunton?sends Dunstan into cardiac arrest because - without naming names - the head implicates both Dunstan and Eisengrim in Boy's murder. Opera House This romantic, European-style Opera House is the principal assembly hall for the rural village of Deptford. It is here that the village gathers to celebrate the return of their war heroes, including Dunstan Ramsay. Fifth Business Social Concerns Fifth Business begins on December 27, 1908, in Deptford, Ontario. An incident occurs that sets off a chain of events that are not concluded until October, 1968, in Toronto when Boy Staunton, one of Canada's wealthiest men, dies mysteriously. The novel, which is written in the form of a memoir, traces the lives of the three people involved in the 1908 incident. One of the characters, Boy Staunton, has prospered materially, having embraced the gospel of wealth and materialism as preached by George Maiden Leadbeater. Seemingly never satisfied, Staunton continues to expand his economic domain and to raise the goals that define success for him throughout his life. His contemporary, Dunstan Ramsay, has lived a different kind of life. Becoming a history teacher, he stays in the same position for forty-five years. In addition to teaching, he publishes in his specialty, hagiography — the biographies of saints or other idealized individuals — being particularly interested in the connections between history and myth. Since his specialty lacks academic respectability, it always has something of the status of an avocation for him professionally. The third character involved in the incident is Mrs. Amasa Dempster, the wife of a Baptist minister. Her life is apparently changed radically by what happened in 1908. After the incident people in Deptford regard her as simple-minded, and she eventually winds up in an insane asylum where she dies in 1959. It is never completely clear whether Mrs. Dempster's emotional problems are the consequence of the incident. It is sufficient that for Dunstan Ramsay they are, and that he feels responsible for what has happened to her. This novel is not concerned with any particular social issues per se, but rather with an individual's understanding of himself and his place in the world. Each of these characters has his or her own way of getting through life. Boy Staunton apparently masters the world, but he never understands it, himself, or the people around him. Dunstan Ramsay has been cast in the role of Fifth Business, i.e., that player in a drama or opera who is essential for the working out of the plot but who is extra, outside the central core of action. Most people think of him as an observer, someone who watches the world pass by but does not participate. This novel, which is written in the form of Ramsay's personal memoir, serves as a correction to that misguided notion. Finally, Mrs. Dempster appears to have a clear understanding of what is going on about her, but her understanding differs from other people's, and she is regarded as mad by her neighbors. Fifth Business Themes The incident in 1908 is pivotal to an understanding of Fifth Business. Two ten-year-old boys are playing. Percy Boyd Staunton throws a snowball with a stone in it at Dunstable Ramsay, who dodges the missile; it hits the pregnant Mary Dempster instead. She goes into premature labor as a result and brings her son Paul into the world eighty days ahead of schedule. She is never the same after this event and is regarded by people in Deptford as insane. Staunton's missile apparently has altered the world in an unforeseen way. The most obvious theme that is directly tied to this incident is guilt. Dunstan Ramsay feels responsible for Mrs. Dempster's condition. He describes how as a child he listened "guilt-ridden" to his mother's account of the first six months of the life of the premature Paul Dempster. Burdened with a Presbyterian conscience, Ramsay carries his guilt with him for the rest of his life, providing for Mrs. Dempster until she dies. In contrast, Mrs. Dempster's son Paul runs away from home before the age of ten because his father holds him responsible for his mother's madness and because he is subject to the cruel jokes of people who think there is something funny about her. Staunton's response is a third possibility. When confronted by young Ramsay with his crime, Staunton refuses to acknowledge his responsibility for Mrs. Dempster's condition, and he promptly forgets the incident. Thus, he can join in with the other Deptford youth calling Mrs. Dempster "hoor" with no sense of shame or compunction since he remains unaware of his part in her story. As a seventy-year-old tycoon, he is genuinely surprised to learn about Mrs. Dempster's history. For Dunstan Ramsay, Mrs. Dempster becomes far more than a burden that has to be taken on. Her primary role is that of Ramsay's personal saint. As a child, he becomes intrigued by the romance of religion, which for him is embodied in the lives of the saints. He entertains Paul Dempster (at the age of four) with card tricks and with "a pretty volume . . . called A Child's Book of Saints by William Canton. To Ramsay's youthful imagination, the tales of the saints provide the Arabian Nights element in religion that was lacking in his family's stern Presbyterianism. Hagiography becomes a lifelong occupation for Ramsay; as an adult, he writes popular books about saints as well as learned articles on saints' lives for the Jesuit Bollandist Society. Mrs. Dempster becomes his fool-saint, a concept introduced to the adult Ramsay by Father Regan, the Roman Catholic priest of Deptford. Ramsay at this point has become convinced that Mrs. Dempster is a saint because he can attribute three miracles to her, including his own recovery from a fivemonth coma after being wounded and burnt in World War I. He consults with Father Regan who classifies Mrs. Dempster as a fool-saint: "somebody who seems to be full of holiness and loves everybody and does every good act he can, but because he's a fool it all comes to nothing — to worse than nothing, because it is virtue tainted with madness, and you can't tell where it'll end up." The idea of Mrs. Dempster as a saint becomes an obsession for Ramsay and comes to replace the concept of Mrs. Dempster simply as the victim of his rash act. It is clarified near the end of the novel when Ramsay has a final interview with Padre Ignacio Blazon, a Jesuit scholar in the Bollandist Society, who at this point is somewhere beyond one hundred years. Padre Blazon's comments about Mrs. Dempster are not as negative as Father Regan's. After asking Ramsay why he has never written about his fool-saint, Padre Blazon explains to Ramsay that Mary Dempster qualifies for sainthood on two counts: She has served as a saint in Ramsay's personal mythology; and her life has been lived in a saintly way. As for the miracles, Padre Blazon tells Ramsay, "you believe in them, and your belief has coloured your life with beauty and goodness; too much scientizing will not help you. It seems far more important to me that her life was lived heroically; she endured a hard fate, did the best she could, and kept it up until at last her madness was too powerful for her. Heroism in God's cause is the mark of the saint, Ramezay, not conjuring tricks." In addition to victim and saint, Mrs. Dempster bears one other role in the private mythology of Dunstan Ramsay: lover. As a child, part of his guilt over the accident stems from his religious upbringing. He had been taught him to be "mistrustful of whatever seemed pleasurable in life," particularly of sex. Because of this accident with a snowball, Dunstable (for such was his name at the time) Ramsay finds himself "directly responsible for a grossly sexual act — the birth of a child." After this birth, the young Ramsay becomes a fixture in the Dempster household, helping Mrs. Dempster take care of the infant Paul and doing menial household chores for her. From the perspective of a seventy-year-old memoirist, Ramsay can say that he was in love with Mrs. Dempster, "not as some boys are in love with grown-up women, adoring them from afar and enjoying a fantasy life in which the older woman figures in an idealized form, but in a painful and immediate fashion." He sees her as his accidental creation, and he "must hate her or love her." This sense of possession carries through into adulthood when Mrs. Dempster becomes his charge, and he pays for her care and visits her on a weekly basis. At this point Ramsay thinks of Mrs. Dempster as part of himself: "a part of my own soul that was condemned to live in hell." There is also a sense of possessiveness, characteristic of the jealous lover. He explains that he did not seek help for Mrs. Dempster's care from the wealthy Boy Staunton because he wanted Mrs. Dempster to be his: "I was determined that if I could not take care of Mrs. Dempster, nobody else should do it." Thus, Mrs. Dempster plays a number of roles in the life of Dunstan Ramsay, not so much in what she does as in how he thinks of her. There are two aspects to the theme of role playing: the roles one assigns people in one's life, such as the roles that Ramsay assigns Mary Dempster to play in his personal mythology, and the roles one is assigned to play. Perhaps the most unlikely role Ramsey is assigned is that of hero. He knocks out a German machine-gun emplacement in World War I, a chance act performed in the confusion and horror of war. After the war, the public needs heroes, and he is one of them. When he is awarded the Vic toria Cross by the king of England, he sees himself and the king as two icons, "unreal yet very necessary; we have obligations above what is merely personal, and to let personal feelings obscure the obligations would be failing in one's duty." Public figures are assigned roles as if they were actors in a drama, "and it is only right to consider them as players, without trying to discredit them with knowledge of their off-stage life." In professions too, people are cast in roles. Although Ramsay does not spend many pages describing his life as a teacher, when he explains why he was forced to relinquish the position of headmaster at Colborne which he had held on an interim basis during World War II, he reveals that he had the public persona of an eccentric school master — someone who wears the wrong clothes, has easily identifiable personal habits ("that disgusting trick of blowing your nose and looking into your handkerchief as if you had expected to prophesy something from the mess"), and is an expert on a peculiar subject, saints. In addition to being assigned roles to play, characters in Fifth Business choose how they will be known to the world, as indicated by a name change. There are three significant name changes. First, Ramsay changes his name from Dunstable to Dunstan after his heroic deed on the battlefield during World War I. After lying in a coma for five months, he awakens to find himself physically transformed, having lost a leg and suffered severe burns on his chest. His last thought before slipping into unconsciousness had been that he had seen Mrs. Dempster's face on a statue of Virgin and Child. When he awakens five months later, he believes that he has been in a special protected place watched over by the Madonna with Mrs. Dempster's face. He attributes his recovery not to medical science but to himself, or to "the little Madonna," or to "some agencies other than good nursing and medical observation." For a time he has a relationship with his English nurse, Diana Marfleet, and she suggests that he change his name from Dunstable to Dunstan: "St. Dunstan was a marvellous person and very much like you — mad about learning, terribly stiff and stern and scowly, and an absolute wizard at withstanding temptation. Do you know that the Devil once came to tempt him in the form of a fascinating woman, and he caught her nose in his goldsmith's tongs and gave it a terrible twist?" Ramsay likes "the idea of a new name"; it suggests "new freedom and a new personality," a kind of miraculous transformation. The other two name changes in Fifth Business are indications of the roles the characters choose to play in life. Percy Boyd Staunton becomes Boy Staunton during World War I, "and it suited him admirably. Just as Childe Rowland and Childe Harold were so called because they epitomized romance and gentle birth, he was Boy Staunton because he summed up in himself so much of the glory of youth in the postwar period." So for Staunton, the name suggests his identification with an era and a character type epitomized in the fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald. As he grows older, the name seems increasingly inappropriate, but the suggestion of someone whose understanding always remains on a naive, undeveloped level makes it appropriate for this character. The third character who experiences a name change is Paul Dempster. He becomes Magnus Eisengrim. For both Ramsay and Staunton, the name changes are subtle shifts, adjustments whereby the individuals put their personal stamps on the names given them by their parents. Dempster, in running away from home, has severed his connections with his family. He has become a magician, an artist who travels about the world. His new name bears no connection to the one he had; the face he shows to the world purposely conceals the real man underneath. When Ramsay encounters Magnus Eisengrim in a magic show at Guadalupe shortly after World War II, it takes Ramsay some time to be sure that Eisengrim is really Paul Dempster. Ramsay wonders how Dempster came "by this new self," but he does not find out. Eisengrim remains mysterious in this novel — a totally fabricated personality whose motives are not clear. Ramsay is hired to write Eisengrim's autobiography, a work of total fiction that is part of the magician's stage persona. In the final scene of the novel, Eisengrim tells Boy Staunton that his name "comes from one of the great northern beast fables, and it means Wolf." In Eisengrim, the man with the fabricated name, there is always something of the sinister. Having run away and created a new identity, he remains much more of an enigma in this novel than any other character. Fifth Business Significant Topics The Role of Women in Society The role of women in society is analyzed in the story from the point of view of a male narrator, Dunstan Ramsay. Dunstan minimizes the role of women in his own life by avoiding marriage and escaping his mother. He does this because of certain dark beliefs he holds about the negative power of women, beliefs he has gained through his upbringing in the psychologically twisted village of Deptford. It is certainly understandable why Dunstan fears women. He watches his own father be emotionally consumed and subsumed by his mother, much as a black widow spider physically consumes her mate. Mrs. Ramsay lays down rules and codes of conduct that are impossible to bear, and when either her husband or her children thwart these codes, her wrath is terrible. Mrs. Ramsay is only comfortable with, and loving toward, her son Dunstan when he accepts her opinions as his own. Dunstan, suffocated by his overpowering mother, spends much of his youth trying to avoid becoming "her own dear laddie." He instinctively understands that if he does not break away from her, he will lose his true identity, and become, instead, the puppet man child she wishes him to be. Thus Dunstan's fears about the suffocating love of women are perfectly understandable. However, as he only sees things from the male perspective, his views suffer from deep ignorance. Dunstan is under the mistaken belief that the women of Deptford rule the town with their moral authority. Their husbands always agree with the women's moral decisions, because, as the author states, the men know the price of peace. Yet Dunstan fails to see the obvious fact that the male-dominated religious "morals" of the town are what force the women to behave in this manner. The moral code which the women enforce on the men has been forced on the women in the first place, for it is the women who will suffer - at the hands of the men - if the code is broken. Witness the way Mary Dempster is tied up with a rope in her own house by her own husband, for years, because she commits adultery. Certainly adultery is considered a sin by most religions, and modern psychiatry supports the fact that adultery is one of the most hurtful things one person can do to another. But that's not why the women of Deptford judge adultery so harshly. They judge it so because they must, to survive. If a woman like Mrs. Dempster sins in this fashion, the male-dominated religious society of Deptford considers a lifetime sentence of bondage and house arrest to be appropriate punishment. Cruel and unusual punishment is deterred by the U.S. Constitution for precisely this reason. While adultery may be wrong, what was done to Mrs. Dempster is far more wrong, and certainly qualifies as cruel and unusual. Male-dominated religion - that is to say, not God, but Man - has meted out dire punishments for women who violate the moral law for millennia. This was true of Christianity in eras past, and continues today in the form of Islamic honor killings and genital mutilation. Thus it is small wonder that the women of Deptford use their influence with their husbands to enforce the strict codes of their religions. For their religions, which speak of mercy and forgiveness, offer neither to the women of the town. It thus becomes critical to the survival of women like Mrs. Ramsay to force their families to adhere to the moral code. Thus, Dunstan blaming the women for the codes they enforce is sheer projection. The women, above all, are subject to these codes, and have been forced by a male-dominated society to adhere to these codes - or else! It is an ironic and vicious circle. For millennia, men have subjugated women, forcing them to adhere to strict social rules or else suffer heavy consequences. Thus women have been convinced, over the years, that strict adherence to these rules is the only way they can be considered 'good' women. In turn, these 'good' women force these exact same rules down the throats of their men. The men, not liking it, seek out men's clubs and other places where they can safely avoid the watchful eyes of their women. Why did so many country clubs, until recently, prohibit women? Because men needed a comfortable place where they could drink, smoke, swear, and in short, 'sin', in a relaxing environment, away from the judgmental women. This attitude of segregation, which continues today, is sad because it allows men to relax and be human, to allow themselves a time and place where they don't have to be perfect. The reason this is sad is because only the men are allowed this relaxation of the rules which they themselves created. Women are never allowed to fall short of the mark of perfection; if they do, they stand to lose their reputations, their freedom, their safety, and perhaps even have their children taken away from them. Perfection is a tough line to maintain, as any man can attest. If society allowed women the same margin of error which it allows men, men would most likely find themselves under less pressure from women to act saintly all of the time. Boyhood Boyhood is a concept thoroughly explored by the author, in the guise of narrator Dunstan Ramsay. Fifth Business sheds some light on society's age-old quest to better understand its children, or, at least, its boy children, for the narrator admits to ignorance when it comes to the female gender. However boys, he understands. It is because of this understanding that Dunstan takes to teaching like a duck to water; as he says, teaching boys is something that comes naturally to him. Having been a boy himself, he understands what boys are. According to Dunstan, boys are merely tiny men, trapped in boy's bodies. They are capable of extreme tenderness and mercy, just as are their adult counterparts. Yet boys are also capable of craven, miserable behavior, like lying and cheating and stealing. To Dunstan's way of thinking, boys do not fundamentally change as they approach manhood. Men learn to disguise their craven motives in order to succeed in life, just as Boy Staunton does, and thus adult men appear mature. But Dunstan believes that maturity is merely a socially acceptable front put on by these now-adult boys in order to fit into society. Further, as one ages, one cares less for appearing socially acceptable, and more easily reverts to one's natural, boyish personality. "I was going to be a sharp-tongued old man as I had been a sharp-tongued boy. And Boy Staunton had reached a point in life where he no longer tried to conceal his naked wish to dominate everybody and was angry and ugly when things went against him. As we neared our sixties the cloaks we had wrapped about our essential selves were wearing thin." Chapter VI, pg. 279 Man's Search for Meaning The contemplation of life and man's role in it are frequently on the narrator's mind as he retells his life's story for the benefit of his audience. Three strange and unusual occurrences happen to the narrator, Dunstan Ramsay, which spur him on his quest for meaning. As a young boy in Deptford, he witnesses Mary Dempster raise his brother from the dead. Later, of course, the village doctor insists that Willie had never died, and in this way tries to invalidate Mrs. Dempster's miracle. But Dunstan was there, and he is personally convinced that his brother had died and been brought back to life by the miraculous Mary Dempster. Thus Mary Dempster takes on a larger than life role in the narrator's personal universe. She comes to represent, for him, all things holy and miraculous. When he is in the thick of battle in World War I, and a shrapnel wound sends him to the brink of death, Dunstan looks up with his dying breath to see a Madonna and Child statue bearing the face of Mary Dempster. When he awakes in the hospital a few days later, Dunstan credits his survival as another one of Mrs. Dempster's miracles. It is not, however, until Mary's third miracle is revealed that Dunstan begins his true search for meaning. His search revolves around Mary Dempster, and what she means to his life. He has long wondered if the village of Deptford was fair to Mrs. Dempster, for the villagers considered her simple because of her kind nature and tendency to laugh often. After Mrs. Dempster engages in an affair with a vagrant, the village changes its opinion, labeling her a dangerous lunatic. Dunstan has a difficult time reconciling in his mind the saintly woman who brought his brother back to life with the now-dangerous lunatic who keeps company with vagrants. Yet when Dunstan stumbles upon the vagrant in question, several years later, he learns something surprising, which changes the meaning of the event for him. The vagrant, Joel Surgeoner, has miraculously turned his life around, and now runs a shelter for the homeless called the Lifeline Mission. To Dunstan's shock, Surgeoner tells him that it was his brief affair with Mary Dempster which brought him to his senses and caused him to turn his life around. Her decision to have sexual relations with him voluntarily, after Surgeoner had threatened her with rape, awakens in Surgeoner the knowledge of true compassion. Once Dunstan learns that the very act which had led to Mary's disgrace is actually a miracle in itself, he decides to view her as a bona fide saint; a woman who has performed the three requisite miracles needed for the church to declare her sainthood. Unfortunately, the Catholic priests with whom he discusses Mary do not agree with his view of her character. Ultimately, Dunstan decides that it does not matter if others share the meaning he has found in Mary Dempster, and thus Dunstan has found the value of personal meaning. He realizes that life has a different meaning for everyone. For him, life is about the search for meaning, which he comes to believe is more important than meaning itself. As age and wisdom catch up with Dunstan, he begins to realize that Mary Dempster is only playing a role in this world. It is not she who has provided meaning to his life, but rather he himself has found and attached holy meaning to her existence. In this way, Dunstan broadens his perspective on the search for meaning. Only after he has come to realize that true value is in the eyes of the beholder does fate allow him to find once again the Madonna and Child statue he had seen in the war. All these years later, Dunstan finally learns that it was not Mary Dempster's face on the statue. Yet having gained the wisdom of the years, Dunstan is not crushed by this hard reality. For Dunstan realizes the value of his personal belief system. Because he had believed Mrs. Dempster capable of performing miracles, by seeing her in his hour of need, he allowed himself to believe he might miraculously survive. It was this belief - and not Mrs. Dempster all - that saved him. Fifth Business Style Point of View Fifth Business employs the conceit of being a narrative written for an audience of one, specifically, the Headmaster of the Colborne College for Boys. The main character and narrator, Dunstan Ramsey, has recently retired from a forty-plus-year career as a teacher at Colborne. The novel is crafted as if it were Dunstan's response to a rather condescending article written about his teaching career upon the occasion of his retirement. With Fifth Business, Dunstan intends to set the record straight for his former boss, the Headmaster, by revealing, at long last, his side of the story. In addition, the narrator promises his audience, the Headmaster, that he will endeavor to chronicle his life objectively, withholding nothing. This conceit, employed by author Robertson Davies, is a clever way of intriguing the reader, for it gives the story, from the very beginning, the feel of a salacious, clandestine memoir. Dunstan's promise to reveal the full truth implies that there has been some sort of cover-up, and the reader is about to get the real scoop. Not only does this first-person narrative conceit provide instant intrigue, but it is also necessary given the character traits which the author assigns to his protagonist, Dunstan. The narrator is a man best known for his ability to keep a secret. Because of this gift, Dunstan, throughout his life, has been trusted with many confidences. The narrator would not, as a rule, ever betray these confidences. Thus the author is forced to concoct the narrative conceit as a means for opening Dunstan's vault of secrets. The narrator makes it clear that his words are intended for the Headmaster's eyes only, and that the manuscript will not be revealed even to the Headmaster until after Dunstan's death. Another important facet to the narrator's character that also affects the point of view of the story is the fact that Dunstan Ramsay is a history professor. In fact, he is not only a professor, but an author as well. Dunstan has published ten scholarly works in his lifetime, each dealing with the lives of various Catholic saints. As such, his books are researched from the historical perspective; Dunstan then translates the historical details into a narrative story. Naturally this life experience, attributed to Dunstan by the author, makes Dunstan an ideal narrator for his own life story. Dunstan is able to convey the historical perspective as he looks back upon his life from the viewpoint of an old man, and he incorporates many true facts from history in this fictional account of his life. Setting Fifth Business is set in three distinct milieus. Given author Robertson Davies' well-known interest in Jungian psychology, it is interesting to note that each milieu can be said to represent a different aspect of the psyche. The first and most well developed of the three settings is the tiny village of Deptford. The portrait painted of this village is rich with dark imagery, and in Jungian terms could be considered the darkness of the subconscious mind. Deep in the dark heart of Deptford lurk the secrets which Percy, Paul, and the narrator, Dunstan, think long buried. But like subconscious emotions, these secrets drive the adult characters' actions long after they have escaped the tiny confines of Deptford. Both Percy and Dunstan escape to Toronto, a major city in Canada. The city is not well described in the story, but it does serve to represent the conscious mind. Here in this well-populated milieu, Boy and Dunstan create and live out their public roles. Dunstan, a disciplined man who has long suppressed his emotions, must travel to South America to encounter his emotional side. In Jungian dream interpretation, this part of the world signifies man's uncontrolled, undeveloped emotions. In the story's climax, the dark secrets buried in Deptford finally emerge, as Dunstan, after spending time getting acquainted with his emotions in South America, finally integrates the buried pieces of his psyche with his conscience world in Toronto. In addition to the richly symbolic physical settings, the author has introduced the actual events from history, which take place simultaneous to the story. The stock market crash of 1929 and the abdication of King Edward both affect the characters in the novel. Both World War I and World War II are accounted for as well, although only World War I is discussed in detail, as it was the war in which the narrator actually participated as a young man. The narrator's war experience is central to the story, as it leads to one of the three miracles supposedly performed by Mrs. Mary Dempster. Boy makes his fortune during the post-war boom, and later uses his industrial capability to feed the hungry populace of Canada and England when food supplies become limited by the war. Without this historical backdrop, Boy's character could not have become a captain of industry. And had their not been a convenient war to enlist in, Dunstan would perhaps have never made it out of Deptford. Thus these historical events help set the stage for the dramatic roles played by the characters of Boy and Dunstan. Language and Meaning Fifth Business is written in a manner befitting the narrator's character. Dunstan Ramsay, the first-person narrator and protagonist of the story, is a thoughtful, fair-minded man. The prose reads as if it were written by a thoughtful and fair-minded man, and as the reader learns at the end, by a secretive man as well. Dunstan is careful with his words, and often reveals important facts obliquely. For example, when he speaks of what the villagers did to Mrs. Dempster, Dunstan does not indignantly state that she was kept, quite literally, on a leash by her husband, as a prisoner in her own home. Instead, the cautious narrator reveals this fact as a rumor, and indirectly confirms the rumor later in the narrative with an off- handed comment: "I got so that I did not notice the rope she wore (it was actually a harness that went around her waist and shoulders, with the horse-smelling hemp rope knotted to a ring on one side, so that she could lie down if she wanted to), or the raggedness of her clothes, or the occasional spells when she was not wholly rational." Chapter I, pg. 56 Thus given the narrator's penchant for indirectly establishing facts, the reader must pay close attention to every word. In this way, the author woos the reader's attention, and keeps it firmly throughout the story. Even the climactic ending to the story is revealed indirectly. Dunstan never flat-out accuses Paul Dempster of killing Boy Staunton. The narrator mentions only that he noticed his stone paperweight - the murder weapon - had gone missing after Paul left his room in the company of Boy Staunton on the night of Boy's death. The Brazen Head confirms the identity of the murderer with a verse of theatrical doggerel. This theatrical accusation might easily be overlooked as unimportant, except for the fact that the Brazen Head's words shock the narrator into cardiac arrest. The devil is definitely in the details in this carefully worded story by Robertson Davies. Structure Fifth Business is structured as if it were a personal memoir, written by the protagonist, Dunstan Ramsey. The story's overt structure follows Dunstan's life chronologically, from his boyhood in the small village of Deptford, to his adult life in the large city of Toronto, incorporating his travels across Europe and the Americas as well. The purpose of Dunstan's life is to discover his purpose, and the book is structured in such a way as to gradually reveal that purpose to the reader. The story opens with a boyhood prank gone awry, referred to as the snowball incident; this childish prank involves both Dunstan and the book's other major character, Percy Staunton. As the years of Dunstan's life roll by, this incident, rather than being forgotten, becomes more and more important. By the end of the novel this incident is revealed as being Dunstan's raison d'etre, his purpose for living. Thus the author neatly ties everything back together at the end of the story by finally resolving the snowball incident, and revealing its true meaning to the characters in the book and to the reader as well. In addition to this overt structure, a theatrical, pseudo-structure lies embedded in the plot. The story's title, Fifth Business, refers to a key principle in the structure of operas and stage plays. One of the core characters, Liesl, has a theatrical background, and it is she who explains to Dunstan the structure of operatic plays, and how this structure applies to his life. In an opera, there is a main male protagonist, and his female love interest. Additionally, there is a female rival whose role it is to interfere with the lovers, as well as a male rival who generally plays the part of the bad guy. The fifth character in this dramatic structure is called Fifth Business, for he has no female counterpart. It is the role of the fifth man to keep the secrets of the male protagonist, and to reveal them when the time is right. Thus, the Fifth Business is the conscience of the protagonist, as well as the record-keeper of the events of the plot. Dunstan Ramsey plays the role of Fifth Business. Thus although he is the protagonist of the novel, in his own life's story, he is actually the odd man out, the fifth man. Dunstan is the conscience and the record-keeper for his friend Percy (Boy) Staunton, and in the end it is Dunstan who reveals the truth about the snowball incident at the propitious time. This pseudo-structure is a complex concept executed flawlessly by author Robertson Davies. As a result, Dunstan plays two distinct roles: within the novel, he is the protagonist; within his own life's story, he plays the smaller role of supporting character. The author meshes these two distinct structures seamlessly, and the resulting construction provides a satisfyingly comprehensive storyline. This section contains 1655 words (approx. 6 pages at 300 words per page) Fifth Business Literary Precedents Robert Browning's The Ring and the Book (1868-1869) is one basic source for Davies's approach to the narrative material in this novel. In that poem the same events are presented from the viewpoints of different people. Davies takes that idea one step further by having his narrator write about himself. The story that we learn is incidental to what we learn about the character. Patricia Merivale has noted that in addition to being Dunstan Ramsay's autobiography, Fifth Business is also "Dunstan's 'lives' of the 'saints,'" and she relates the novel to two elegiac romances, Hugh MacLennan's The Watch That Ends the Night (1959) and Thomas Mann's Dr. Faustus (1947) as well as Thomas Mann's "ironic Saint's Life," The Holy Sinner (1951). Michael Peterman finds several important antecedents to Fifth Business. He notes resemblances between this novel and John Henry Newman's religious autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864). Like Newman, Ramsay is offering a defense or justification for his life, for he is responding to Lome Packer's patronizing tribute to "Corky" in the College Chronicle which suggested that Ramsay's approach to history was fanciful and hopelessly dated. Peterman also points to links with J. B. Priestly's The Magicians (1954) and Iris Murdoch's A Severed Head (1961) noting that the choice Sir Charles Ravenstreet must make in The Magicians between "the power-wielding businessman Mervil" and "the three mysterious magicians, Wayland, Marot, and Perperak" resembles Ramsay's conflict "between the materialistic world of Boy Staunton and the religious realm of Mary Dempster" and that Honor Klein in A Severed Head plays a Liesllike role in appearance and counsel.
Pages to are hidden for
"fifth business"Please download to view full document