Fifth Business

Fifth Business


Hypertext Response Project

A quotation that shows the importance of place (setting) in the novel.

“Our cillage never seemed to me to be like that. It was more varied in what it offerd to the observer than people from bigger and more sophistivated place generally think, and if it had sins and follies and roughnesses, it also had much to show of virtue, dignity, and even of nobility.” (Fifth Business, page 8)

A quotation that shows the relationship between two characters.

“If you think her a saint, she is a saint to you.” (Fifth Business, page 162)

A quotation that helps establish a metaphor explored in the novel.

“I was…a happy goat who had wandered into the wondrous enclosed garden of hagiology, and I grazed greedily and contentedly. When the time came at last for me to go home, I knew I had found a happiness that would endure.” By Dunstan Ramsay

A quote of the novel, one passage or quotation that captures the essence, true meaning, of the novel for you.

And you must have Fifth Business because he is the one who knows the secret of the hero’s birth, or comes to the assistance of the heroine when she thinks all is lost, or keeps the hermitess in her cell, or may even be the cause of somebody’s death if that is part of the plot. (Fifth Business, page 214)

Happy like chocolate,always sweet
Happy like yoghourt,always sour
happy like coffee, always bitter

happy like pepper,always peppery

Re enactment Criteria Guide

What event or scene had the most action?

The event had the most action was Dunstan had killed three German soldiers.

What event made you laugh?

When Dunstan fought with Liesl made me laugh. He cracked her nose and finally they talked to 4:00 am and made love together.

What event gave you a lump in your throat?

The event gave me a lump in my throat is after one dinner party Boy and Leola had a fight and Boy told her he was leaving her.

What event shocked or surprised you?

The event when Boy Staunton was found dead in his car in the Toronto harbor.

What event do you select to write a poem for?

I choose to write the event when Dunstan chose the third way, he joined the army.

Join The Army!

We are fighting

We are fighting

We are fighting for our country.

We are fighting for peace

We are fighting for our family

We are fighting for ourselves

We are fighting

We are fighting

I am Dunstan.

I Join The Army!

Inquiry Question

What is the author’s cultural and personal background?

William Robertson Davies was born August 28, 1913, at Thamesville, Ontario, and died December 2, 1995 at Orangeville, Ontario was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished "men of letters", a term Davies is variously said to have gladly accepted for himself and to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate residential college associated with the University of Toronto.

What about his author’s background qualifies him/her to write this novel?

Davies drew on his interest in Jungian psychology to create what is perhaps his greatest novel: Fifth Business (1970).

How does the author’s personal and cultural background tie into the storyline?

The book that draws heavily on Davies' owns experiences, his love of magic and myth and his knowledge of small-town mores.

How can the author’s background tie into poetry and performance?

The book's characters act in roles that roughly correspond to Jungian archetypes according to Davies' belief in the predominance of the spirit over the things of the world.


1. What is the setting in Chapter One?

2. How does Paul Dempster become remarkable?

3. Who are Milo and Myron Papple?

4. How does Boy Staunton become rich and powerful?

5. Why does Dunny not want to ask Boy to help with Mary Dempster?

6. What disturbing changes take place in Dunny's character? How is he being foolish?

7. How is Dunny's infatuation with Faustina shattered?

8. How does Dunny think he contributed to Mary Dempster's death?

9. Who is now a suspect in Boy's death?

10. How does the brazen head show knowledge of Boy's death? Why would the police become interested?

Persuasive Essay

Guilt in Fifth business

  In The Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies, Guilt is a theme that runs throughout both The Fifth Business and is a major force in one's life. Davies demonstrates this by having one character feeling guilt while another who does not. Davies introduces the reader with Dunstan Ramsay and Percy Boyd Staunton. And Dunstan Ramsay and Percy Boyd Staunton are parallels to each other. Davies portrays the idea of competition through the relationship between Boy and Dunstan in their childhood, their military recognition, and their love for Leola. In this novel the theme of guilt is shown through the experiences of the characters as Dunstan felt guilty for the premature birth of Paul Dempster, Boy subconsciously felt guilty for the death of Leola, and Boy felt responsible for causing Mrs. Dempster to go insane. Guilt essentially is what drives the characters of Fifth Business and in the end determines the final conclusion. Lastly, although Boy and Dunstan are parallels of each other Davies uses their contrast in values, desire for control, and contrast in prosperity during youth. Their awkward relationship plays a major role in the elements that make Fifth Business such an interesting story. Hence, the story revolves around the idea of competition, guilt, and contrast between two similar yet different characters.

  The guilt felt by Dunstan altered the way he lives through his complete devotion for Mary Dempster. Dunstan’s guilt is the result of his religious upbringing. This guilt is caused by Percy Boyd Staunton when he throws the snowball that hits Mrs Dempster, resulting in her madness and Paul’s premature birth. Dunstan takes it upon himself to be the bearer of the guilt and feels responsible for the Dempster’s misery. Because of this burden of guilt, he commits his life to Mary Dempster. Dunstan handles the Dempster’s chores and cares for Mary and her son, Paul. By understanding Mrs Dempster, it no longer became a moral obligation to care for her but a deep sense of commitment that he placed on himself through his meetings with Mrs Dempster. Dunstan’s escape out of Deptford through the army, may have allowed him to temporarily leave his guilt behind, but Dunstan’s guilt still remains. He sees the face of Mary Dempster during his time of pain in war, through the statue of the Immaculate Conception, showing the guilt that he still holds onto dearly. After returning to Deptford, Dunstan commits himself to the care of Mrs Dempster again, “I visited Mrs. Dempster forty Saturdays every year and at Easter, Christmas and on her birthday in addition,” (Page182). Evidently, his guilt still lingers.

  On other can prove Guilt is a theme that runs throughout both The Fifth Business is Leola with his husband. Leola, Boy's first wife was one of these people. Leola was born in Deptford as was Boy. They grew up together going to the same school, and fancied each other throughout the years. When Boy came back from the war, they fell in love, got married and remained that way until the day Leola Staunton killed herself. Throughout their marriage Boy wanted Leola to be something she could not. Leola tried hard to suit his
lifestyle but eventually Boy realized that she was not what he wanted; "She was trying hard, but she could not keep pace with Boy's social advancement"(page 151). As a result Boy began neglecting her and their children. The neglect grew and eventually Boy cheated on her. As the neglect grew, so did his guilt. When Leola eventually killed herself, his guilt grew so big he could not face it. This could be seen when Boy did not even attend her funeral. For this point we can know boy felt guilt for his wife dead, and we also know the theme of fifth business is about guilt.

  The last point for the theme of fifth business is guilt is boy felt responsible for causing Mrs Dempster to go insane, we know In his early childhood, Boy throws a paperweight concealed in a snowball at Mrs. Dempster. Towards the end of the book, Boy denies ever throwing the snowball at her, oblivious to the fact that Dunstable (Dunny) Ramsay was present at that time. The fact that a man of such grace and distinction like Boy Staunton denies the guilt of throwing the snowball that causes a dramatic change in the mental stability of Mrs. Dempster, as well as the birth of a premature child, Paul Dempster, angers one. Shortly after Mrs. Dempster's assailant, Boy, throws the snowball at her, Dunny, unable to contain his own guilt, confronts Boy about the guilty deed.
  From those three points such as boy felt responsible for causing Mrs Dempster to go insane,Leola with his husband. Leola .Dunstan altered the way he lives through his complete devotion for Mary Dempster.  Those areclearly the case present in Robertston Davies’ Fifth Business. Although Boy committed the crime, Dunstan feels a profound sense of guilt about the snowball incident. On the other hand, Boy obliterates his guilt. Guilt and lack of guilt can clearly be seen through character’s lives, relationships and philosophies.

Character sketch

In the novel Fifth Business, Dunstan Ramsay and Percy Boyd Staunton’s relationship existed throughout the novel. Dunstan Ramsay was brought up in an intellectual Scottish Presbyterian family in Deptford. He was very interested in spiritual matters and saints. Percy's and Dunstan's characters contrast in many ways. The most prominent way in which they contrast is their values. Dunstan values spiritual things, while Percy values only material things. Percy is impressed by and yearns for money, while Dunstan could care less about it.

For example Where Boy lived high, I lived - well, not low, but in the way congenial to myself. I thought twenty-four dollars was plenty for a ready-made suit, and four dollars a criminal price for a pair of shoes. I changed my shirt twice a week and my underwear once. I had not yet developed any expensive tastes and saw nothing wrong with a good boarding-house. (Page 113).

This shows us that where as Percy was in pursuit of money and possessions, Dunstan was concerned elsewhere. Their values also contrast to each other. “To him the reality was of life lay in external things, whereas for me the only reality was of the spirit - of mind.” (Page 114) Dunstan values spiritual things, for example Mrs. Dempster was important to him because he thought she was a saint. Dunstan is in a search for inner truth and spirituality, and Percy is searching for outer beauty and appearances.

My Grandfather

In my life, there was an important person that guides me through my childhood to adult life. He played with me, kept me safe, and taught me how to face challenge with optimism. And this friend was my grandfather. He was a role model, a father figure and a true friend.

Seventy years ago, he was born in a small village, he was eldest son in his family, when he was a student, he studied very hard and he went to a very famous university in the city, he was the first person went to that university in their village. The success of my grandfather was the pride of the village. When he completed his education by attending four years in university, he was very lucky to get a good job in a high school. He taught physical courses in his high school and he was an exacting teacher. He always told me: “there are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.” When I have a problem with my work, I always can remember my grandfather and my grandfather’s admonitions.

He also was a very romantic person. I remember once I was very curious and asked him a question: “how did you meet my grandmother.” I could feel my grandfather was a little shy when he heard my question. He answered: “we met in our high school, she taught biology courses in our high school. She was beautiful when she was young even now and also was very kind teacher in our school. Most of students venerated her.”

Though he was 70 years old, but he always played with me. I didn’t feel he was old man, I remembered my grandfather said: “You’re only as old as you feel and I feel forty today!” Although he was an old man, he looked healthy enough. He had a positive attitude towards his later years of life. He did physical exercises every morning. He could read books without wearing glasses. He was so strong that he was able to lift heavy things by himself. I couldn’t believe a seventy year old man had so much energy. I asked he; “how can I become a healthy and energetic person” he told me: “that we need to be happy and optimistic when dealing with difficulties.” I think of my grandfather was optimist and realist. My grandfather also enrolled old age collage and has made a lot of friends in his old age. I think these activities afforded him great pleasure in his old age.

Thought my grandfather was seventy years old. I don’t think so. He would always be forty years old in my mind, like he said: “You’re only as old as you feel and I feel forty today!” he was a healthy and romantic person. He also taught me so many experiences in my life and I always remember my grandfather’s admonition “there are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.” when I have problems.

Chapter summary

Chapter1 Mrs. Dempster

•The narrator dates the beginning of his involvement with Mrs. Dempster from December 27, 1908, at which time he was ten years and seven months old. The narrator explains that he recalls the date so clearly because he had been sledding with his "lifelong friend and enemy Percy Boyd Staunton." Percy had been upset because his expensive, new, Christmas sled refused to go faster than the narrator's older, cheaper sled. Percy, the son of the village's richest residents, is already, at ten years old, accustomed to having his own way about everything. The sled's refusal to cooperate angers Percy. The narrator goes home for dinner, and Percy follows him all the way, throwing taunts and snowballs at the narrator's back. Paul does the card tricks perfectly. Description of Paul. Description of Amasa Dempster, he loves Mrs. Dempster on principle. Demspter shouts at Dunstan for teaching his son magic tricks and telling Paul about Saints. Dunstan is Fifteen. Dunstan ill wishes Dempster. Description of Mrs. Dempster and Mrs. Ramsay. Description of Willie. People blamed the actions of the young people on Mrs. Dempster. Village helps Willie and the Ramsay's. Description of people in the villag. Willie dies and Dunstan calls Mrs. Dempster. Mrs. Dempster prays and Willie wakes up. Mrs. Dempster's second Miracle of Raising Willie from the dead.

Interpretation: In this character is entirely set in Deptford, It described Dunny’s boyhood from ten to seventeen years old. This chapter begins with an incident that might make several people feel guilty in order to express this theme in the novel. This chapter also foreshadows the following plot. Have two main point from this chapter, first point is Dunny believed Mrs.Dempster brought his brother back alive. Second point is Dunny didn’t realize it until he met the tramp many years later. Dunstable’s deep guilt towards Mrs. Dempster had also been built up in this part. Since Mrs. Dempster figures most prominently in this section of the novel, part one was named after her.

Chapter 2 I Am Born Again

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.Dunny talks about the battle he was in at Ypres. This battle was the most terrible experience for him. The field were covered in mud and you couldn't even walk in it. He was in a small group of soldiers who had to crawl across the field and take out the German machine guns. He was injured in the attack as the Germans were expecting them. The last thing he saw before he passed out was a statue of the Virgin and Child. When he woke up he was in a hospital in England. - Paul, Mary's son had ran off and joined the circus and they hadn't seen him since.

Interpretation: This part talked about Dunstable’s life in battlefield and his affair with Diana in England. In this chapter begins with Dunny participating in the First World War in 1915 to 1917. Have two main point from this chapter, The first point is his escape from death on the battlefield. The second point is his rename by Diana, which symbolized him born twice. This chapter also foreshadows Dunstan’s visit to Mrs.Dempster and his development of relationship among Boy and Leola.

Chapter 3 My Fool-Saint

It was 1919 and Dunny entered University College in the University of Toronto.- He studied history. He sold his family home and business and Percy helped him invest his money so he could make a profit. Percy Staunton decided to go by Boy Staunton when he was in University. Percy was the big man on campus and made alot of money with his investments. After university Dunny took a job schoolmastering at Colbourne College. Mr. Surgeoner show Dunny what prayer got people to bring to the mission. Dunny discovered that Mr. Surgeioner was the same man he saw with Mrs. Dempster. Mr. Surgeioner told Dunny he didn't rape Mrs. Dempster. Dunny went back to Deptford and found out the name of the Aunt who took Mrs Dempster after Mr. Dempster died.- Mr. Mahaffey told Dunny Miss Bertha Shanklin took her to Weston to live.- Dunny went to see the priest while he was in Deptford. They discussed his past and his new interest in saints. The priest called him a fool-saint.- Dunny went ot Weston to see Mrs. Dempster. Miss Bertha Shankin was a very small lady of an unguessable age. - Dunny talked about why he had come to visit and of the concern he had for Mrs. Dempster. Mrs. Dempster didn't remember the past. Bertha Shankin asked Dunny to come back and visit and get to know Mrs. Dempster over again as her friend. Paul now went by Faustus Legrand.He didn't want to discuss his past. When Dunny left he realized Paul had stolen his pocket book.

Interpretation: this chapter This part focused on Dunstan’s study on history and saint. The priest while he was in Deptford claimed Mrs.Dempster as a Fool-Saint.He saw Paul Dempster in the circuit and learned Paul didn’t want to mention about his past because he felt guilty. However, he has been told if Mrs. Dempster was anything, she was a “fool-saint”.

Chapter 4 Gyges and King Candaules

Boy made a lot of money during the depression.He would buy any business that was in trouble financially and then make it prosperous again.- He had business in coffee, donuts, breads, sugars etc. Dunny spent his time teaching and watching Boys distruction of Leola as well as taking care of Mrs. Dempster.Dunny visited Mrs. Dempster forty Saturday's a year.- He visited less and less often because the patients begged him to take them out of there. Dunny visited Mrs. Dempster forty Saturday's a year. He visited less and less often because the patients begged him to take them out of there. They hated it there. Dunny finished his first book called "A Hundred Saints for Travellers". He also wrote for Analecta and the Royal Historical Society. She wanted Dunny to kiss her like he loved her and when he wouldn't she was very upset. She was in a deep depression and finally ended up trying to kill herself on Christmas Day. She left a suicide letter to Dunny saying she always loved him.

Interpretation: In this chapter, Boy Staunton’s materialism has led to huge consequences. He forced Leola to become the perfect executive’s wife because he thought Leola was not good enough to match his status. It began with Boy Staunton’s financial success in the Great Depression, and talked about the family struggle in the Staunton family. Since Dunstan was a very close friend to this family, he was kind of involved in the conflict.

Chapter5 Liesl

During the Second World War Boy became the Minister of Food in the coalition Cabinet. So most of his time was spent in Ottawa.He was in Guadalupe checking the churches for saints. He say a brochue on a magic show and book a seat. Dunny became a member of Magnus eisengrim's entourage. They discussed the plans they had for the show and how they wanted to make it unique.Dunny spent his time teaching and watching Boys distruction of Leola as well as taking care of Mrs. Dempster. Dunny became involved witht he Bollandists.The Fifth Business is the odd man out, the person who has no opposite of the other sex. And Dunny was because he is the one who knows the secret of the hero's birth(Paul), or comes to assist the heroine when she thinks all is lost(Leola), or keeps the hermitess in her cell (Mrs Dempster), or may even be the cause of somebody's death.

Interpretation: This character is mainly talked about Dunstan’s life with Magnus Eisengrim’s magic show in Mexico. Dunstan met his true love Liesl in the novel at the age of fifty. She developed Dunstan’s life to a new stage because she completed Dunstan’s life physically by his first sexual experience and she also stated Dunstan was a fifth business of his memoir.

Chapter 6 The Soiree of Illusions

Dunstan completed the Autobiography of Magnus Eisengrim and it was a great success.Liesl insisted that Paul sign a banker’s note to support his mom monthly. At the end of the war Dunstan had Mrs. Dempster transferred to a private hospital.

Boy Staunton was found dead in his car in the Toronto harbour. Dunstan tells of his meeting with Paul, Boy and himself when they discussed the past and what happened to Mrs. Dempster. Boy insisted he didn't remember any of it. Dunstan kept the rock in a box with the engraving. It mysteriously disappeared and was found in Boys mouth when he died. Dunstan went off to Switzerland and joined the Basso and the Brazen Head.

Interpretation; This chapter is the ending of the novel, which basically gave a resolution to every conflict through out the novel. The theme “guilt” was expressed in two ways. Dunstan felt extremely guilty for Mrs.Dempster’s death because he blamed himself on telling her about Paul Dempster.