The Deptford Trilogy

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The Deptford Trilogy Most times in life, mental abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse. In Robertson Davie's "The Deptford Trilogy" we see how mental abuse affects the character David Staunton and how he decides to deal with it.

In the first novel of the trilogy, (Fifth Business) we meet the character Dunstan Ramsay and his "life long friend and enemy" Percy Boyd Staunton, (later Boy Staunton). Boy Staunton being the main cause and reason for the second novel (The Manticore), is why I shall focus mainly on him for a good part of this essay.

In the Fifth Business it speaks of Boy Staunton's entire life, from childhood till death. As a child he is known as a rich bully who is spoiled rotten. Later in adolescence, Boy becomes self-absorbed, money-obsessed and always feels the need to win and have his own way. During the war, Boy becomes a Major and picks up a few honourable medals.

When he returns to Deptford from war he marries the prettiest, yet not quite the brightest girl, in Deptford. He marries Leola only to prove to his friend Dunstan that he gets what he wants, and he always wins. Later on he has two children with Leola, David and Caroline, which brings us to the next novel.

The second novel, The Manticore, shows the terrible affect Boy Staunton's mental abuse has on David. This mental abuse leads David to tell his life problems to a female psychiatrist in Venice. He speaks of all the details in his life including his father's death and the funeral that followed. Through Dr. Jo Van Haller, David brings some clarity to his life. After his sessions are complete with the doctor, he meets up with Dunstan and Eisengrim. Eisengrim explains to David some of the things that were left unanswered in the first novel.

When Boy died abruptly it left David lost and confused. He didn't know what to do without his controlling father to tell him how to live his life. He finds himself drinking excessively but believes there to be no problem with his drinking. Boys death was also so mysterious that is added to David's misery. In the first novel a clue to Boy's death is given but unexplained. In the second novel the clue is explained to David by Eisengrim which helps bring some closure to his father's death. This is how Boy's death occurred.

"He was killed by the usual cabal: by himself first of all; by the woman he knew (supposedly Leola); by the woman he did not know (Denyse and Mary Dempster); by the man who granted his inmost wish (Magnus Eisengrim allowed him to kill himself painlessly); and by the inevitable fifth, who was keeper of his conscience and keeper of the stone (Dunstan Ramsay, his best friend)." Throughout David's life he finds it very difficult to be the son of his extremely wealthy father. Boy Staunton was always trying to make his young son, into a man before he was ready. When David was only six years of age, Boy wouldn't allow him to play with a doll because "he must be manly in all ways". David became a very confused boy and was "always anxious to please". While David was in school, boy gave him a very small allowance while spoiling his sister Caroline, in hopes that David would become a good money manager. However, all it did was make David look very cheap to his friends and also make him considerably poor compared to his family.

David never felt worthy of his father's love, and was ashamed of himself. He was too young to understand that he did nothing wrong, it was his father who was trying to make David be the very image of himself. Boy never knew how to express his feelings, and he passed this trait down onto David. David grew up with a complete lack of feelings. In order to compensate for his lack of feelings he became over developed in the areas of thinking and sensation.

There are four different means of apprehension, thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition. Thinking and sensation being David's two strongest points, allowed him to be a very observant person. Most times he is quite intuitive but his lack of feelings makes him a very unbalanced person. With the help of Dr. Jo Van Haller, she develops David into a more healthier balanced person.

By the end of David's life he proves to be a better man than his father could ever be. David does something that Boy could never do, he comes, to accept and understand his shadow. Throughout Boy's life he refuses to see the bad in himself and won't allow himself to feel guilt either. When he does selfish things, such as demoting his best friend, he tells himself that it is all mere sacrifices needed to make him truly successful. Boy never learns to except himself, which leads him to live and unsuccessful and incomplete life.

However, David on the other hand wanted a complete life, filled with understanding. He does the opposite of what his father would have done, he asks for help. Dr. Jo Van Haller rescues him by showing him the path to true success. Excepting himself as a complete person, that includes the good with the bad. Also not to be afraid of who you are.

In conclusion, I found that the second novel in the Deptford Trilogy to be more of a success story than the first. David Staunton was able to overcome his father's mental abuse and become a complete man. Boy Staunton on the other hand, struggled to accept himself and gave up in the end. Perhaps if Boy had of raised David with love and encouragement, he would have been a complete man from the beginning.