What are some quotes about name changes in Robertson Davies' Fifth Business?

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Among the characters who change their names are Dunstable Ramsay, who becomes Dunstan, and Percy Boyd Staunton, who simplifies his name to Boy Staunton.

Dunstable Ramsay feels himself a different person after an act of heroism during World War I. He responds to the idea of changing his name because...

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Among the characters who change their names are Dunstable Ramsay, who becomes Dunstan, and Percy Boyd Staunton, who simplifies his name to Boy Staunton.

Dunstable Ramsay feels himself a different person after an act of heroism during World War I. He responds to the idea of changing his name because he believes it will bring freedom along with “a new personality.” A saint’s name would connote a miracle. It is Diana Marfleet who suggests Dunstan, after a saint who

was a marvellous person and very much like you — mad about learning, terribly stiff and stern and scowly, and an absolute wizard at withstanding temptation.

Percy Boyd Staunton chooses to become Boy Staunton. He thinks that “Boy” evokes literary heroes and an association with youth. Later in life, the name comes to seem childish, but he keeps it in part because of its association with the success he finds in business.

Childe Rowland and Childe Harold were so called because they epitomized romance and gentle birth, he was Boy Staunton because he summed up in himself so much of the glory of youth….

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The majority of the key central characters in this novel change their name at significant moments, and this is partly to indicate a new start or a new stage in their life and a moving on from the past, and perhaps a moving away from the past and its associations. For example, Paul Dempster, when the narrator finds him performing in a circus, does not answer to his original name anymore and only responds to Faustus Legrand:

He had been Faustus Legrand for more years than the ten during which he answered to his earlier name. I spoke of his mother; told him that I had seen her not long before I came abroad. He did not answer.

The silence with which Paul responds to the narrator when he is told of his mother indicates that part of the name change represents a rejection or a leaving behind of his upbringing and his mother. Name changing is therefore a method that allows the central characters to reinvent themselves and give themselves a new identity, moving on from the past and embracing a future where they will not feel hampered by their former selves. This is of course the case with both the narrator himself and also Percy Boyd Staunton, who both change names at significant stages in their lives for this reason.

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