How does Dunstan Ramsay grow individually throughout the novel Fifth Business?

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sfwriter eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dunny does some serious growing and changing in the novel, but he also realizes his limitations.  One way in which he does not grow is in his relationship with Boy Staunton.  He always had a long-simmering contempt for him, and kept important facts about Boy's own life from him (like the fact that he still had the rock that hurt Mrs. Dempster, and that he had supported her in mental institutions for years, and at one time Boy's first wife Leola had propositioned him), all while remaining, on the surface, a friend. 

But Dunstan makes a big change in his later years, specifically in regard to Leisl.  She teaches him that love, friendship, and even a sexual relationship doesn't have to be smothering, as it was with his mother.  Dunstan spent a long time learning this; because he never had a long-term relationship (other than Diana) that worked out very well, he lived a somewhat stunted, bachelor life well into his 50s.  But knowing Leisl for many years changed him, so that in his later years he could fall into a kind of companionable relationship that didn't frighten or threaten him.

Also, Dunstan did come to terms, through Blazon's analysis of his psyche, with the figure of Mrs. Dempster in his life, especially with his feelings of guilt about her.  In a somewhat ruthlessly practical twist on the idea of God's plan, Blazon counsels Dunstan to accept that Mrs. Dempster's sanity may have been sacrificed to God for a reason, and not to dwell on it and make it his personal problem.  While Dunstan doesn't always agree with Blazon, his advice is certainly good for his self-examination.

Leisl is the one who pegs Dunstan as "fifth business" -- a cognomen which certainly doesn't always fit him -- and makes Dunstan consider him less the protagonist of every drama involving him, but possibly only a supporting character.  This can make a particularly egotistical person depressed, but for Dunstan it can be quite liberating.  Since the weight of the world (or the story) isn't always on his shoulders, it left him free to do what he liked and become more fully who he was. 

I wouldn't say that the growth of Dunstan was dramatic; it was more organic and believable as the maturing, finally, of an old man over many years.  Dunstan began life with fewer weaknesses, perhaps, than other people, but the weaknesses he did have were great and limiting.  That he mitigated these significantly during his lifetime, for his and others' benefit, means that he made real and permanent progress.

gurmitc65 | Student



floydd | Student

The final phase of development before the zenith is the intellectual. Liesl is the final step of Dunstan becoming fifth business, she connects all the events of his life. As Liesl brings the unconsciousness to conscious, the fight or climax represents the inner battle Dunstan faces in his final step of rebirth. Liesl corresponds with this Jungian description; “Thanks to her lucidity, objectivity, and masculinity, a woman of this type is frequently found in important positions in which her tardily discovered maternal quality, guided by a cool intelligence, exerts a most beneficial influence. This rare combination of womanliness and masculine understanding proves valuable in the realm of intimate relationships as well as in practical matters.” [Jung, 186]. Liesl also becomes the first women Dunstan becomes intimate with, this is significant because she is the reason he reached the zenith. In myth, Sapienta can best characterize Liesl. Sapienta was a red winged angel who was suppressed by man, female god [McCombs, 1]. 

After the Zenith, Dunstan will begin his descent, which it the reversal. To move on and teach others, therefore becoming Fifth Business. Thus, Dunstan uses the rock to show Boyd Staunton the totality of his life. One could argue that by sleeping with Liesl, he has already become the fifth business by completing her 4 phases. 

“The goal of individuation process is the synthesis of the self” [Jung, 278]. The individuation of man is clearly revealed through the four phases of development. Carl Jung’s philosophy fits flawlessly with Robertson Davies portrayal of Dunstan Ramsey in Fifth Business. Dunstan develops into fifth business only after being touched by the four female characters Diana, Faustina, Mrs. Dempster and Liesl.

floydd | Student

The first phase of Jungian Individuation is the biological identity, given by Diana Marfleet. She was a beautiful volunteer nurse were Dunstable was taken during the war, she cared for Dunstable while he was bed ridden. “She had been nursing me… she had also washed me and attended to my bed pan and the urinal” [Davies, 77]. Diana became a mother figure to him, as the relationship grew; Dunstan began to reject her presence. Jung explains “The mother complex… experience of the personal mother, then by significant contact with other women…” [Sharp, 21]“In homosexuality, the son's entire heterosexuality is tied to the mother in an unconscious form; in Don Juanism, he unconsciously seeks his mother in every woman he meets” [Jung, 162]. Don Juanism displays why Dunstan would reject Diana because in his unconscious she represent his mother. Diana represents Eve in mythical terms; she has insightful information but is rejected jus as Adam did. 

Romantic-biological and emotion outline the second phase of development. Faustina fills this void for Dunstan, she teaches him about his sexual body and unconsciously won over his heart. “But I loved her!… to watch her very rapid changes from Gretchen to Venus… she was almost naked” [Davies, 210]. Dunstan’s lack of sexual experience is accounted for by the negative mother complex; “…either sexuality does not function properly … responded to with impatience and irritation.” [Jung, 170]. In Faustina Dunstan does not find mother like traits, which allows him to open up to her. “Jungian, Passive projection is completely automatic and unintentional event, like falling in love…” [Davies, 3] explains Dunstan’s boyhood crush on Faustina. In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy is seen as Faustina, “Helen's beauty became legendary. It was obvious to all that the child would become one of the most beautiful women of all time” [Koshak, 2]. Faustina becomes the most stunning woman Dunstan Ramsey ever meets. 

After rediscovering himself, his body and emotion Dunstan finds the third phase spiritual development. He finds himself looking at Mrs. Dempster; she is the reverend’s wife who was caught sleeping with the tramp. “He shot the beam of flashlight… we saw a tramp and a woman in act of copulation… the woman was Mrs. Dempster.” [Davies, 45] This act consequently turns Mrs. Dempster into a fool saint, performing three miracles; “Spirit, like God, denotes an object of psychic experience which cannot be proved to exist in the external world and cannot be understood rationally” [Jung, 626]. Therefore, Mrs. Dempster becomes a spirit to Dunstan. “The archetype of spirit appears in a situation where insight, understanding, good advice, determination, planning, etc., are needed but cannot be mustered on one's own resources” [Davies, 398]. According to Jung, Dunstan spiritual development discovers him because he is in capable of finding it. Mrs. Dempster symbolizes the Virgin Mary, who also preformed miracles. 

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Fifth Business

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