The life of Dunstan (originally Dunstable) Ramsay is strongly affected by the childhood incident of rock throwing and his experiences in the war. In his ongoing studies of the saints, he learned about others’ lives more than he lived his own. It took him years to admit that he was not at fault for injuring , which allowed him to appreciate his own positive qualities and forgive his shortcomings. Once his guilt was alleviated, he was also able to live in the here-and-now rather than obsessing about what might have been.
Although it was Boy Staunton who threw the rock that injured Mrs. Dempster, Dunstan continued to feel guilty for not protecting her. After being injured in the war, his long period of recovery gave him time to contemplate his future direction. Through his musings, aided by Diana, he even changed his name. Through his decision to devote himself to studying the lives of the saints, he found an appropriate profession that had elements of a religious calling. However, his studies also placed Dunstan in the position of constantly comparing his behavior to that of the saints. He seemed to have a morbid fascination with martyrdom.
Dunstan’s guilt played out in his efforts to support Mrs. Dempster, apparently placing her needs over his own. Through his interactions with the adult Paul Dempster, Father Blazon, and especially with Leisl, Dunstan learns to assume responsibility for focusing on his own needs. Although he will likely never be guilt-free, he can compartmentalize those feelings and accept the finality of past events.