Fifth Business

analytical Essay
1575 words
1575 words

Fifth Business: A Look in the Mirror

Fifth Business is a fictional memoir of Dunstan Ramsay, a small town boy from Deptford, Canada whom we get to see evolve into an intellectual man looking for meaning in life. Dunstan has an innate ability to read people upon first or second meeting, but never seems to get a true read on himself. He is relatively successful financially, and is proclaimed a war hero after receiving the most prestigious English award; the Victoria Cross. He was raised well, and has an intelligence that exceeds his small-town upbringing. All these things seem like they would lead Dunstan to a happy, satisfying life. However, at the beginning of the story Dunstan goes through a major life-changing event. His best friend and biggest rival Percy hits a pregnant woman with a snowball intended for Dunstan. This sends Dunstan into a life full of guilt, eventually leading him to a life without any significant other or true friendships.

Near the end of the story Dunstan is characterized as “fifth business” by a magic show manager named Liesl. Fifth business is an opera term for a specific character, usually a baritone. This character has no female opposite, is considered the odd man out, and knows the secrets of the lead characters. (214) Fifth business is a perfect characterization of Dunstan and perfectly sums up his life to this point. Liesl goes onto say, “This is the revenge of the unlived life, Ramsay. Suddenly it makes a fool of you” (Davies, 213). Dunstan and Liesl continue to talk throughout the whole night and eventually go onto have seemingly meaningless sex. I say seemingly because it was meaningless in the context of Liesl and Dunstan as partners, but it meant a very large contradiction in Dunstan’s character. Although this is near the end of the story, it is the beginning of Dunstan’s appreciation for life. Dunstan had lived a very empty life up unto this point, which is why a random sexual escapade is the peak of his character arc.

The most important woman in Dunstan’s life up until he meets Liesl is Mrs. Dempster. This is the pregnant woman hit with the snowball, and she plays a very subtle, yet significant role in the story. Although not responsible, Mrs. Dempster is the reason that Dunstan lives a life full of guilt. She gave birth to her son prematurely leading her to become simple minded.

In this essay, the author

  • Describes the fictional memoir of dunstan ramsay, a small town boy from deptford, canada, who is an intellectual man looking for meaning in life.
  • Analyzes how dunstan is characterized as "fifth business" by a magic show manager named liesl. the random sexual escapade is the peak of his character arc.
  • Analyzes how mrs. dempster plays a subtle, yet significant role in dunstan's life up until he meets liesl.
  • Analyzes how dunstan respects his mother and sees her as a hard-working, determined woman, but has no love for her. his mother becomes the caretaker of mrs. dempter’s child, paul.
  • Analyzes how dunstan chose mrs. dempster over everyone else in his life and accepts the nickname of "nursie" from his schoolmates.
  • Analyzes how dunstan believes traits from childhood still remain as a person grows older. his idolization for mrs. dempster is ever-present, and his guilt continues to follow him everywhere he goes.
  • Analyzes how dunstan's first interest in leola cruikshank is the deptford beauty, but he sees her more of a trophy.
  • Analyzes how dunstan rejects diana marfleet's engagement proposal because of her resemblance to his mother, a caretaker, and his self-hate.
  • Analyzes how dunstan's final female interest in the story is a woman who finally challenges him and calls him out on his martyr ways.
  • Opines that dunstan ramsay broke the chains binding him to the title fifth business. it took him sleeping with an ugly woman to realize he has no love in his life.
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