Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Though Davies has admitted that he first approached dealing with Jungian archetypes and mythic themes only reluctantly, he nevertheless does so with considerable grace and skill. In Fifth Business, he deals with unfulfilled lives. Dunstan Ramsay, for example, rises above his origins but remains a schoolmaster and never pursues the doctoral degree which would allow a university career. He lives vicariously, first through Boy and after Boy’s suicide through the glamorous but illusory world of Magnus and Liesl. His only serious temptation to marry occurs when he is well into middle age, and the young woman he loves (significantly named Faustina) is half his age, a homosexual, and unable to speak English. Dunstan is fascinated by saints and sinners, and his mythic view of life often allows him to see them as one and the same.

Sinners and saints become demons and angels for David Staunton in The Manticore. He discovers that his analyst Johanna von Haller is neither a sibyl leading him to truth nor a devil determined to drive him to oblivion, but, more important, that this neutrality applies to almost everyone. David Staunton’s stepmother, Denyse Hornick, is merely an ambitious, somewhat undereducated young widow fearful of facing her future in a family which mistrusts her. More important, David Staunton comes to see his father’s life in realistic terms, that he need not duplicate his father’s womanizing in order to see himself as a complete man, that his father was capable of making errors of judgment, particularly...

(The entire section is 625 words.)