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Fifth Business Relationship Essay

Fifth Business Seminar: Relationship between Dunstan Ramsay, Paul Dempster, and Boy Staunton In the novel “Fifth Business” by Robertson Davies, the three characters Dunstan Ramsay, Paul Dempster, and Boy Staunton all have a very complex relationship with one another. We can easily recognize Dustan’s role as fifth business, in which he affects many other character’s lives, but his role within the relationship between Paul and Boy is more important; Just as Boy and Paul are equally important in this relationship among the three of them. We can analyse the relationship, and each individual character, and a cause and effect scenario is often found. This proves that their relationship changes or at least alters each other’s lives.

For instance, Dunstan Ramsay’s relationship with Boy Staunton has been an interesting one. They always come off as friend and enemy to one another, yet the relationship lasts all of their lives. From the beginning, Boy tried to make Dunstan feel lesser than him. If it wasn’t his expensive mittens bought from the city, it was the women Boy was “conquering’. Dunstan is relatively unaffected by Boy’s attempts to make him jealous, and even learns to profit from Boy’s success. Boy helps Dustan with his financial investments that pay off very well for Dunstan.

If Dunstan did not have the extra money, it would have restricted him from doing some of the things he does in the novel. Like take care of Mrs. Dempster, or travel to far off places, where he runs into Paul Dempster on two occasions. Boy also confides in Dunstan on several occasions, when his knowledge of business, and financial areas are useless. He needs help with Leola on occasion, and Dunstan helps even though he has reason to take offence to Boy for “rubbing it in his face’. Leola is an example of Boy’s conquest over Dunstan; he steals away Dunstan’s love, and marries her.

Paul Dempster is also woven into the relationship between Boy and Dunstan. Paul is the result of Boy’s snowball, meant for Dunstan. When they were around ten years old, an argument between Boy and Dunstan leads to Boy following Dunstan home, throwing snowballs at him the whole way. When Dustan avoids one of his snowballs, it finds its way to hit Mary Dempster. Mary falls to the ground, and Dustan witnesses a “scene’ between the Dempsters. The snowball incident sparks the early birth of Paul Dempster, so early in fact that it almost kills him. He does however survive, but his life is miserable. When Mrs. Dempster, in her “simple’ state, commits adultery with a tramp, Paul’s life is made even more miserable. Kids at school tease him for this, and he begins to hate his life, and resent his birth, and even his mother. We know that Paul’s premature birth, and his mother’s simple state is all a result of the snowball thrown carelessly at Dustan, by Boy Staunton. Dustan also knows, which strengthens his role as fifth business.

Dunstan’s relationship with Paul would probably have never have taken place, if he hadn’t felt partially responsible for what happened on the day of his birth. Dunstan would have never led Paul to the interest in magic, which eventually shapes his life. When Dunstan performs magic tricks for Paul, he realizes how quick and adept Paul is at performing them himself. Dunstan nurtures the talent, teaching him tricks that he himself cannot perform, even at his much older age. Dunstan feels no jealously, and is probably proud of Paul’s every accomplishment.

The same incident with the snowball would have also led to the relationship with Dunstan, and Paul’s mother, Mary Dempster. A very serious relationship for Dunstan, he is unsure of what his feelings mean towards the woman. He enjoys taking care of her, he enjoys talking with her, and he does this even though it brings teasing upon him at school. Later in life, Dunstan is again looking after Mrs. Dempster when her caretaker passes away. He is using funds that he gained from Boy Staunton’s financial advice, to care for Mary Dempster. While doing this, he leaves for one of his trips to study the Saints, and he runs into Paul Dempster. He chooses not to tell Mary about Paul, but eventually gets Paul to help partially pay for his mothers care. When the facts come about that Paul has been sending money, it sends Mary into a fit, and she is changed forever. She later dies, and it is difficult to say if Paul feels remorse for the woman he resents for bringing him to life.

Towards the ending of the book, the three characters are all in the same room together. Dustan Ramsay, Boy Staunton, and Paul Dempster are all in a room together, and the truth comes out. Dunstan confronts Boy about the snowball, and displays the rock that was hidden within it. The rock that brought on Paul’s birth, and made his mother “simple’ for the rest of her life. Paul now has somebody to blame for the torment that his life has been. Dunstan played his role as fifth business, and it allowed Paul to know the truth, and Boy had to confront his past. When Boy denies it all, it is clear that he has tried to forget about the past, and he has done this so well that he actually believes he didn’t do it. Paul knows better, or at least feels that he does, and Boy is found murdered the next day, with the stone in his mouth.

The relationship of the three is what spurs many plots of the novel, but it really comes into play at the end of the book, when the three confront one another. Many areas of the story are a direct result, or an indirect result of the three characters having interacted with one another somehow. In the end, Dunstan tells the truth, and Paul and Boy are instantly enemies. The relationship never seems so completely dependent on each of the three characters as it does at this point, and it finishes with the mystery of which one of them actually ended up killing Boy Staunton. (provided it was not suicide)


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