What is Diana's significance in Fifth Business by Robert Davies?

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Diana Marfleet gives Ramsay his new name, Dunstan; she helps him refine his behavior as they spend time together; and ultimately, she christens him with port.

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Diana Marfleet—who Ramsay at first refers to as the pretty nurse—is the one who gives Ramsay his new name, Dunstan. She also has an impact on who he is as a person.

Diana is twenty-four and tells the narrator that her fiance was lost when Aboukir was torpedoed. Ramsay says they get along very well and that she did everything from washing him to giving him the bedpan without making him feel self-conscious. Ramsay has a lot of admiration for her and says that he got better more quickly because he wanted to please her.

Diana tells him that he was marked as dead and that he received a posthumous reward. As they spend time together, she helps refine Ramsay's behavior. For example, he says, "she also stopped me from eating like a man who might not live until his next mouthful." He expresses gratitude for what she does.

Ultimately, Diana gives Ramsay his new name: Dunstan. She uses port to christen him as such. He believes that this gives him new freedom and a new personality, which is something he craves. It's one of the foundations for his life after the military.

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Diana's primary significance is that she provides Dunstan Ramsay with a way back into society after his serious injury during the war. Through her kindness, humanity, and infinite patience, Diana humanizes the very shy and intellectual Dunstan, helping him to become a different person. Yet old habits die hard, and Dunstan cannot completely escape from his past, no matter how much help and support he receives from Diana. Dunstan's still in thrall to unpleasant memories of childhood, of his stern, hyper-critical mother forever chiding him for his many eccentricities. Although Diana's a much nicer person than Mrs. Ramsay, Dunstan is unable to forge a deep romantic connection with her, because her authoritative nature reminds him of his mother.

Dunstan may be incredibly grateful to Diana for what she's done for him, but he's not prepared to sacrifice his individuality completely. He needs to hang on to those unique characteristics of his that make him the person he is, that make him stand out from the crowd. It's one thing to smooth out Dunstan's eccentricities, but getting rid of them altogether is a different matter entirely, and so Dunstan cannot allow Diana to mold him, however gently, into someone he isn't.

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One element of significance attributed to the character of Diana is that she accentuates Ramsay's isolation. Her character allows the author to emphasize that Ramsays' isolation is at least partly of his own choosing.

Diana is Ramsay's nurse during his long period of unconsciousness during the war. After he regains consciousness, they become very attached to each, with Diana expecting that they will marry. Ramsay declines marriage after Diana brings it up, stating as his reason his reluctance to be encumbered with a second mother-figure after having been newly liberated from his original mother-figure through the death of his mother. Diana associates Ramsay with Saint Dunstan (at one time Archbishop of Canterbury) who restored celibate monastic life to England in the 900s and who was legendary because of tales about his defeat of the Devil.

Thus Diana is significant because she illustrates that Ramsay is isolated by choice as much as by circumstances. Diana's character is also significant because she illustrates Ramsay's role as the Fifth Business, the baritone in European opera who facilitates the plot but who has no role outside that of facilitator and confidant for the principal characters; the Fifth never gets the girl and seemingly never notices.

But you cannot make a plot work without ... a baritone, and he is called ... Fifth Business because he is the odd man out, the person who has no opposite .... And you must have Fifth Business because he is the one who knows the [secrets]....

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