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“Fifth Business” by Robertson Davis Essay

Paul Dempster was born on December 28, 1908 to Amasa and Mary Dempster. He was suspected to be premature by about 80 days, but that was an estimate made by Dr. McCausland. Paul was described as “Red, of course, as all babies are red. But he was wrinkled like a tiny old man, and his head and back and much of his face was covered with weedy long black hair”(page 13), and “his cry was like the mew of a kitten”(page13). Dunny’s mother was pleased with the progress he was making, “I think little Paul is going to pull through. He’ll be slow, the doctor says, but he’ll be alright”(page 17), but Dr. McCausland was very wrong. Though Paul could neither read or write when he got older, he was very interested in the tricks that Dunny would show him “taking the coin from me and preforming the pass perfectly”(page 33).

Paul’s home life was not one of the best. His mother was, what the town referred to as, simple and his father blamed her condition on his birth. He was also tormented by the other children in the town because of an incident in the gravel pit involving his mother and a tramp. This took a mental tole on him and shortly after the death of his father Paul ran away and joined the circus. Though his experience in the circus made him into Magnus Eisengrim, “The Great Magician”, he was still unable to free himself from his past.

Paul also had much hostility towards Percy, the boy who was also a contributing factor in his premature birth. Paul was blamed by his father for the mental state of his mother but Paul found out as a child from Dunny that it was not his fault, but the fault of himself and his friend Percy. This hostility resulted in the mysterious murder of Percy and though it was never said that Magnus actually committed this act of violence it was pretty clear to the reader that the coincidence was to staggering to be anyone else.

Though Paul does not play the role of that main character in The Fifth Business he does play an important role in the life of the character in which the novel revolves around. His is life alone gives meaning to the whole novel and defines Dunny. His birth and his legend are far from what would be expected of a Parsons son, but he lived his life the way he wanted and made the most of a talent with magic and congering.


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