Fifth Business Essay

1476 words - 6 pages

Fifth Business: A Contrast Between Appearance and RealityHuman beings are changed and motivated by many events and/or people in their lives. Some are affected by their surroundings at a young age, and others seem to be changed considerably later in their lives. Appearance and reality both have a very big impact on a character's development. If one is considered to hold too much appearance or reality in their lives, it would be to their disadvantage. Robertson Davies presented good evidence as to the problems of a person who relies too much on reality or appearances, in Fifth Business. Mary Dempster's character foil to Mrs. Ramsey as well as her connection to religion, the story of Mary Magdalene and her sister Martha, Liesl's attachment to magic, the famous Brazen Head magic trick and the myth on the Shirt of Nessus all tie in to the importance of appearance vs. reality within this novel.Throughout Fifth Business, many contrasts are explored with great insight. The idea of good and evil is discussed within the novel, in such a way as to portray the main character's struggles to accept evil within himself. In his 50s, Dunny still seems unable to spare himself from his childhood guilt, which is of having witnessed the cause Paul Dempster's premature birth, which in consequence, turned his mother insane. As for the contrast of history and myth, Dunny proves that historical facts aren't so different from mythology, such as when he's explaining the similarities between Arabian Nights and Christianity. Dunny states that, "religion and Arabian Nights were true in the same way...they were both psychologically rather than literally true, and..psychological truth was really as important in its own way as historical verification" (Davies 71). Dunstan expresses that the lesson taught within a myth is just as valuable as recorded facts, and unlike religion, mythological teachings can be universal because there is no need for conformity to understand myth.There are many recurring themes in this novel, yet the most apparent theme of all seems to be appearance vs. reality. There is a very big contrast between the protagonist, Dunny and his best friend and worst enemy, Boy Staunton. Within this novel, one of the more obvious differences between both characters is that Dunny represents the reality and Boy represents the appearances of life. The contrast between Dunny and Boy could also be referred to as materialism vs. existentialism. Boy being image-obsessed and worldly-minded, based his decisions solemnly on what would make him look good in front of others. The foundation of his happiness was materialism. Dunny's spiritual approach to life proved him to be a complete character foil of Boy. When speaking of character foils, the story of Mary and Martha portrays a very clear and important one in the New Testament. It refers to an interesting contrast between two people, Martha who is considered holy and who serves Jesus, and Mary whom is labelled as sinful, yet...

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