Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
In Robertson Davies' novel Fifth Business, the author uses the events
that occurred in Deptford as a Canadian Allusion to reveal character identity.
Three characters in the novel from Deptford: Boy Staunton, Dunstan Ramsey and
Paul Dempster, leave Deptford to embark on a new identity to rid of their horrid
past. The three main characters of the novel, all of whom to some extent try to
escape their small town background, change their identity to become people of
consequence. All in some way take on a new identity. Imbedded in this
transformation is the assumption that one's original self, especially one's
small town origins, must be ...view middle of the document...
" (Davies' 231). The scenery of this
autobiography seems significantly Canadian, but Paul does not want his book to
represent his past life in Deptford. Therefore, Paul Dempster is a troubled
child because of his mother's actions in Deptford which in turn force Paul to
leave Deptford and to create a new identity for himself.
Secondly, Dunstable Ramsey is haunted by the guilt of Mary Dempster over
his entire life and he must create a new identity for himself. After a rock has
hit Mary in the head (in a snowball thrown by Boy Staunton meant for Ramsay),
and her preacher husband is crying over her, young Ramsay's only thought is that
he is "Watching a 'scene', and my parents had always warned against scenes as
very serious breaches of propriety." (Davies' 39) The actions of Mary bewilder
Dunstan because Mary committed a serious crime in Deptford. Later in life
Dunstan falls in love with his nurse named Diana who renames him after Saint
Dunstan, who is "Mad about learning, terribly stiff and stern and scowly, and an
absolute wizard at withstanding temptation." (Davies' 93) His new name does not
replace his old identity, but rather makes him double-named and double-
identified. Therefore, Dunstan changes his name to set forth on a new identity
and he never forgets his Deptford past and in fact he becomes obsessed with it,
particularly with Mary Dempster, mainly through guilt about his role in Mary
getting hit by Boy's snowball.
Thirdly, Percy Boyd Staunton is at the center of the snowball incident
which is the prime...