Guilt can only be suppressed for a limited time before it comes out in
unwanted ways. In the novel Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, Boy Staunton -a
successful businessman with a polished appearance but a tortured soul- took the
ultimate plunge to his death. His decision was not merely his own, but was
influenced by a team of hands that helped push him to his destiny. First Leola,
who was his first love and his wife. Then Mary Dempster, a neighbor from his old
town Deptford, whom he mistakenly made into a 'simple' woman. Next his life
long-friend and enemy, Dunstan Ramsey, who was a constant reminder of the
virtuous life boy longed to live. Then Paul Dempster, the product of Boy's
immature childhood behavior. Finally himself, because he suppressed his guilt
and refused to accept the shadow that lurked within him. The five people that
killed Boy Staunton (as stated) were: Mary- ?the woman he did not know?, Leola- ?
the woman he knew?, Dunstan- ?the keeper of his conscience and the stone?, Paul-
whom granted his inner most wish, and lastly, Boy Staunton himself.
It can be observed that childhood experiences play a very important role
in the stableness of ones soul. One mishap in childhood can create a devastating
blow to ones true happiness in later life. This was exactly the case in Boy
Staunton's life. Once, when he was little, he got in an argument with Dunny
which led to snowballs being launched at Dunny from an aggravated Boy Staunton.
The last snowball concealed a rock, and hit Dunny's neighbor Mary Dempster in
the head. As a result, she gave birth prematurely (to Paul Dempster), and then
afterwards became ?simple minded?. This particular incident acted as a
foundation for Boy's growing shadow, and contributed to the demise of his soul.
It is ironic that the person who had such a significant influence on Boy
Staunton's shadow, was a woman he did not know. When Boy was asked if he had any
recognition of Mrs. Dempster, he replied: ? None at all. Why Should I??(page
261). Although Boy only met her once, the guilt remained suppressed inside him
for the rest of his life.
Boy's guilt grew as the years went by, fed by incidents that occurred
from different people. Leola, Boy's first wife was one of these people. Leola
was born in Deptford as was Boy. They grew up together going to the same school,
... middle of paper ...
...his own life.
When Boy was found the morning after, a strange stone was found in his
mouth. That stone was the same stone which hit Mary Dempster in the head so many
years before. Boy considered the stone to represent his guilt and in the end
tried to swallow the stone (he tried to swallow his guilty conscience). Suicide
was the only way out for Boy, because his shadow was much to big to confront.
Boy's biggest mistake in his life, was that he did not face his conscience when
it was small. Instead he let it grow inside him, a mistake which ultimately led
to his death.
Indeed Boy's death was influenced by different people throughout his
life. Leola who was the woman he knew. Mary - the woman he did not know. Paul -
who granted his inmost wish. And of course Dunny -the inevitable fifth. But Boy
Staunton was the only one who could be accountable for his guilt. For he, and he
alone, ignored his shadow and left it to grow. In the end his shadow was to big
to defeat, and so, pushed by the darkness within him, Boy entered finally into
the shadow of death.
Davies, Robertson. FIFTH BUSINESS. Canada: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1970.
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