Lala Essay

1582 words - 7 pages

Literary critics heavily praise Robertson Davies’s elegant novel Fifth Business often for its uninhibited narrative. This feature arises from the novel’s chronological structure as the story follows protagonist Dunstan Ramsay’s life, starting from his boyhood in a small Ontario town, and ending with his present senior life as a retired school headmaster. The chronological format of the novel allows close examination of influences on the protagonist’s character development. The author depicts Dunstan not only as a character whose actions and choices are repressively influenced by his childhood experiences, but also as a character who ultimately discovers his role in life through his relationship with another character. Early in the novel, Dunstan becomes burdened by guilt, scared of his strict authoritative mother, and contemplates his role in life. As the novel progresses, Dunstan’s guilt pressures him to take care of Mary Dempster, and his relationship with his mother hinders his relationships with other female characters he will meet, but Dunstan eventually finds meaning in his life when a critical character, Liesl, enlightens him.

The heavy burden of guilt that Dunstan starts carrying from an young age significantly influences his character development because it dictates many of his future actions and choices. Ever since the snowball incident, Dunstan chooses to live with his guilt rather than to move on from it by vowing to take care of Mary Dempster forever. He suffers through emotional pain, believing he “was alone with [his] guilt, and it tortured [him].” (Davies, 17) Dunstan even sacrifices his social life at school to take care of Mary Dempster. Consequently, Dunstan’s life is affected negatively because of the enormous stress placed on his young mind from not being accepted by his peers in school. He becomes isolated, and this isolation remains consistent as Dunstan matures. He will have lifelong difficulties forming friendships, demonstrated by how he forms no friends during his time in the army, a place where individuals can surely connect. His guilt also shapes him into a character of self-pitying and self-loathing, which identifies to his progression into a character with a generally negative perspective on life. However, not only does Dunstan’s personality change because of his guilt, his closer association with Mary Dempster leads Dunstan to believe he is falling in love with her. Eventually, Dunstan began to view Mary as his fool-saint: “somebody who seems to be full of holiness and loves everybody and does every good act he can, but because he’s a fool it all comes to nothing.” (130) This sparks Dunstan’s new passion in hagiography, and understanding Mary became an obsession for him. His guilt only ties himself closer to Mary; he is unable to live his life truly free until he accepts that getting on with his own life “may be purchased with the price of hers and this may be God’s plan for [himself] and her.” (169) On the...

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