Thwarted love. Ambition. Guilt. Sexuality. Fifth Business is rife with these life lessons. However, the most dominant themes in the novel are ambition and motivation. It is well known that excessive ambition and motivation can destroy someone, but, used correctly, can skyrocket someone to happiness, as in the case of Dunstan Ramsey, Percy Staunton, and Paul Dempster. These two qualities not only give these characters the will to keep on living, but also enable them to rise above the masses during the Great Depression. Right in the beginning of the novel, Dunstan displays his superior motivation and ambition through his learning of juvenile magic.
During one of his habitual browsings of the local library in his quest to become a “polymath”, he stumbles upon a book on the subject of Sleight of Hand. He devotes an enormous amount of time and effort into mastering these skills, which is an excellent example of his ambition. This time, his ambition is to become a master magician, which he works tirelessly to achieve. If he had lacked the motivation to become a master magician, he would have given up on magic and would never had taught it to Paul. This would have resulted in Paul not running away, and leading a very different life. So, Dunstan’s ambition and motivation changed the course of a life in no small way.
Another instance of determination and ambition changing a life occurs when Dunstan is serving in the military. Having just wiped out a machine-gunner’s nest, he began the dangerous journey back to his own side. However, he is soon wounded in the leg by a stray piece of shrapnel. Quickly losing blood, and in copious amounts of pain, he continues the crawl towards his own side. A man with lesser motivation might have given up the struggle for life due to the pain, but Dunstan kept moving. Dunstan’s hunger for life was such that he was able to overcome leviathan amounts of pain, and eventually drag himself to survival. This instance of heroic motivation shows how motivation can be used to accomplish anything from doing well on an essay to saving a life.
The third and final instance of how motivation and ambition affect our lives begins with Dunstan ducking a snowball, and that snowball hitting Ms. Dempster. For weeks afterwards, Dunstan is consumed with guilt, and all through the rest of his life, that feeling never completely goes away. It can be argued that Dunstan spends a large portion of his life trying to atone for what he has done. He visits Ms. Dempster in the asylum numerous times and he periodically checks up on her son. The feeling of guilt can be a powerful motivator, and this force is one that Dunstan succumbs to. As he spends his life trying to atone for something that was not his fault, we realize that although guilt is a natural emotion, we should not allow it to dictate our actions without interference from our logic.
Dunstan’s life is a classic tribute to the forces of motivation and ambition. If...