Since Fifth Business is Dunstan Ramsay's autobiography, he is the main character. Most of the other characters appear only as their lives and identities impinge on his. They are not characterized in a conventional novelistic way. The most developed character is Boy Staunton whom Ramsay calls his "lifelong friend and enemy" in his first reference to him in the second sentence of the novel. Staunton is the man who is successful in worldly terms. He has insured Ramsay's material well-being, since his early investment tips have enabled Ramsay to build a nest egg over the years. There is something romantic in Boy Staunton. After World War I, the Prince of Wales becomes his role model: "Flaming Youth, and yet, withal, a Prince, remote and fated for great things. Just the very model for Boy Staunton, who saw himself in similar terms." For Staunton, having more and looking better than any of his rivals are major concerns. He uses Ramsay as his confidant, which permits Ramsay to see what goes on in Staunton's social and domestic life. At home, Staunton creates a classic dysfunctional family: He thinks of his wife Leola as a failure, unsuited to her social station, and tries to remodel her; he spoils his daughter Caroline, praising her extravagantly for her good looks; and he nervously watches his son David for any signs of unmanliness. In business, Staunton cultivates a number of "clean-cut" young rising executives whose stars fall when they marry and bring their wives...
(The entire section is 1277 words.)
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