Fifth Business

Word Count: 1984 |

Almost anything taught in childhood relates to individuals actions in adulthood; without a proper upbringing, these individuals will never meet their one ultimate goal to be self satisfied. Many people start out as self-absorbed and childish individuals, but learn to evolve. Some people do not evolve and continue as a selfish unsatisfied adult. To be truly self-satisfied, one should have developed good values as a youth. In Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, there are many instances where this has happened and in contrast, instances where a good upbringing has affected a character’s adult life. Some people without an emotionally stable upbringing may become adults are bossy, self-absorbed, and destructive. These traits have both a positive and negative impact, but in most cases, the negative aspect often overtakes the positive aspect of the characters personality. Characters in Fifth Business who display these traits are Boy, and Dunstan. As adults, they are often seen vying for the attention of their peers or have an overpowering need to be popular and try to achieve success. Although, there are some instances where individuals are completely satisfied these are rare occurring. These special cases occur when the individual has adapted to the environment and learn to fit in. They forgive what happened in their childhood and are content to be mediocre. The individuals who do not fit in the special case try to use bully tactics or commit selfish acts. They also develop destructive behaviour without these values and are often on an eternal journey of ultimate satisfaction. In general, childhood values are the basis for adult well being; however, these people may develop their own values later in life and become somewhat satisfied with their successes.

Individuals without good training while growing up, become destructive. Boy developed destructive behaviours as a child and was never disciplined. It started when he and Dunstan were children; Boy was always being a bully. One Christmas Dunstan had received a sled that was better than Boy’s and the reaction was not very friendly. Dunstan writes: “He slighted my sled, scoffed at my mittens, and at last came right out and said that his father was better than my father.”(1). Boy was so immature that he had to make himself feel better by insulting a friend. In contrast, Dunstan had always been more of a peace keeper. Dunstan’s reaction to these insults was not very destructive at all. Dunstan says, “Instead of hitting him, which might have started a fight that could have ended in a draw or even a defeat for me, I said, all right, then, I would go home and he could have the field for himself.”(1). Dunstan’s reaction was more acceptable, he chose not to fight because he used common sense not to fight a friend. Eventually, these destructive behaviours turned on Boy. Boy became so involved in business and politics it stressed him out to his limit. Boy was under so much stress that he tells Dunstan that he would like to get away from everything, ‘“But sometimes I wish I could get into a car and drive away from the whole damned thing.” ’ (246). Finally, Boy admits that he has taken on a task that is too much for him. This foreshadows his ultimate demise where he drove his car off the road into the water. Boy struggled with being, controlling, and a perfectionist all his life he soon came to a realisation that everything in his life was simply too much. Although Dustan and Boy are contrasting characters, they are similar in the fact that they were both destructive in the end. However, Dunstan’s destructive behaviours occur because he let others have control over him and suddenly he was in control. He states: “The day I found myself slapping one of the showgirls’ bottoms and winking when she made her ritual protest, I knew that something was terribly wrong with Dunstan Ramsey” (218). Dunstan had been relieved of his usual duties and now he was in control of his actions while he was in Mexico. Dunstan was living in the present and although he objectified the showgirl in that moment in time he knew it was wrong of him and he stopped.

Without values taught in childhood, individuals bully their way to success. The most significant character who dominates his way to success is Boy Staunton. He is one person who is a bully to his first wife Leola. Boy thinks that in order for him to become more successful his wife should be a success too. Boy wants to be in high ranking, but in order to do so Leola must also be popular and sophisticated. Leola was taught many things that she did not care for, such as sports and card games and all the topics Boy’s associates bring up during a dinner party, under Boys power. “ [She] had acquired a sufficient command of cliché to be able to talk smartly about anything Boy’s friends were likely to know and adored Boy, while fearing him a little” (Davies, 125). Boy bullied Leola in order for her to be at his level of success where as Dunstan did not have to. When Dunstan met Diana, he realized that she was very similar to his mother and he disliked that feature in her but he had not bullied her in order to change. Dunstan states: “[. . .] I had had one mother, and lost her, I was not in a hurry to acquire another- not even a young and beautiful one with whom I could play Oedipus to both our hearts’ content. If I could manage it, I had no intention of being anybody’s own dear laddie, ever again.”(Davies, 85) Even though Dunstan was successful while he was in a relationship with Diana, he did not need to change her way of thinking or treatment, he simply ended the relationship because he had been taught to respect women. As soon as he and Diana were both a success at what they were trying to do they were no longer compatible. Also, with Dunstan he was satisfied with himself and he knew that he would become someone that he did not enjoy if he let Diana to continue teaching him. Another way Boy bullied his way to success was through his friends. An example of this is when they did not know Boy knew the Prince of Wales, “All Boy’s friends had to be pretty spry at knowing who “he” was, or they ceased to be friends” (153). Boy as taught at an early age to be a person who should not associate with the unpopular. The problem with Boy is that if someone did not know who he was referring to they were automatically not friends if they did not know that he was acquainted with the Prince of Wales. Although Dunstan was friends with Boy, he chose his friends wisely and he did not hate them for not knowing a simple little detail about him. To be successful Dunstan wanted to be knowledgeable about the saints, something that he enjoyed so he wrote a simple letter and gained some friends while he acquired knowledge. Dunstan wrote to the College de Saint- Michel and a representative respond, ‘“[. . .] I hope you will correspond with us often, and come here when you can for certainly we think of you now as one of our friends.” (171). Instead of hurting people with his acquaintance with people of higher authority he allows his knowledge to help them through his books that he writes. Unlike Dunstan who is happy, Boy is very angry with his successes.

Finally, without proper discipline as a child, an individual often commits selfish acts. One of Boy’s most recurring traits is his selfishness. An example of this is when he neglects his own fiancé and has an affair with several other women while he is in school and continues to have affairs even after he is married to Leola and has made a family for himself. Boy tells Dunstan “a man with my physical needs can’t be tied down to one woman- especially not a woman who doesn’t see sex as a partnership- who doesn’t give anything, who just lies there like a damned sandbag,’”(185). Boy thinks he has to have affairs rather than to see the successes Leola had made raising a family. He was simply too dominating and self indulgent that he gave up on his family. Boy only married Leola because he was selfish and he knew it would keep him and Dunstan together; it was another way for him to make take the attention of Dunstan. Dunstan too was selfish sometimes, however, unlike Boy, Dunstan did not abuse it. Dunstan was selfish in he sense that he did not have the heart to share his life with one woman he liked them all. He states: “I played fair with all of them, I hope; the fact that I did not love them did not prevent me from liking them very much, and I never used a woman simply as an object in my life.”(117). While Boy and Dunstan are both selfish, unlike Boy, Dunstan treats the women he is in relationships, with respect because as a child he was taught to respect other people. Also, Boy is selfish with his money. The Alpha Corporation took advantage of the people of the Great Depression’s needs. Every inexpensive food item like bread, biscuits, sugar, candy and soft drinks were made available because of Boy’s company. Dunstan writes: “Boy Staunton made a great deal of money during the Depression because he dealt extensively in solaces.”(149). Boy took advantage of the people who became poor during the nineteen-thirties by controlling companies that made affordable foods and was making a huge profit. He was becoming so rich that his wealth could not be counted and it was all occurring during a national decline in wealth. Although Dunstan obtained a decent amount of money, he put it to good use. Although he used it to travel, Dunstan was travelling to become educated in hagiography in order to write his books. Also, Dunstan used some of his money to keep Mary Dempster comfortable; he was able to move her to a private hospital. Dunstan writes, “It meant a substantial monthly cost, and though my fortunes had increased to the point where I could afford it, my personal expenditures had to be curtailed. . .” (235). Since Dunstan was earning a good income he thought he should do something to improve the health and well being of a long time friend so he used his money to help her. However, Dunstan did not make as much money as Boy so he had to be willing to give up some of his pleasures. Dunstan’s mother had taught him to look out for his neighbours no matter what happens, and he did so.

Individuals who are not taught values as a child become destructive, selfish and bully. They try to be satisfied with themselves but are not usually successful until they develop negative character traits such as being destructive, childish, and bossy. Many people start out as self-absorbed and childish individuals, but learn to evolve. Some people do not evolve and continue as a selfish unsatisfied adult. To be truly self-satisfied, one should have developed good values as a youth. In Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, there are many instances where this has happened and in contrast, instances where a good upbringing has affected a character’s adult life. Without an emotionally stable upbringing, adults are bossy, self-absorbed, and destructive. The individuals who do not fit in the special case try to use bully tactics, commit selfish acts and develop destructive behaviour without these values and are often on an eternal journey of ultimate satisfaction. These adults are often seen vying for the attention of their peers, have an overpowering want to be popular and try to achieve success. Although, there are some instances where individuals are completely satisfied these are rare occurring. These special cases occur when the individual has adapted to the environment and learn to fit in. They forgive what happened in their childhood and are content to be mediocre. In general, childhood values are the basis for adult well being. Therefore, any merits taught in childhood, relates to individuals actions in adulthood; without a proper upbringing, these individuals will never meet their one ultimate goal to be self satisfied.

Bibliography
Davies, Robertson. Fifth Business. Second. Toronto, Canada: Penguin Books, 1996

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