Search for Self Identity in Robertson Davie's "Fifth Business" Search for Self Identity

Essay by Jag GrewalHigh School, 12th gradeA-, September 1996

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In Robertson Davies' novel Fifth Business, the author uses the events that occurred in Deptford as a Canadian Allusion to reveal character identity. Three characters in the novel from Deptford: Boy Staunton, Dunstan Ramsey and Paul Dempster, leave Deptford to embark on a new identity to rid of their horrid past. The three main characters of the novel, all of whom to some extent try to escape their small town background, change their identity to become people of consequence. All in some way take on a new identity. Imbedded in this transformation is the assumption that one's original self, especially one's small town origins, must be discarded before one can become significant in the world.

Firstly, Paul Dempster grows up as an outcast in Deptford, his mother's 'simpleness' leading the tight social world of the town to cast out his whole family and force's Paul to leave the town and create a new image for himself.

Paul runs away to the circus in his early teens because of the mental abuse he took from the town because of his mothers incident with the tramp. Dunstable comment's, 'Paul was not a village favorite, and the dislike so many people felt for his mother - dislike for the queer and persistently unfortunate - they attached to the unoffending son,' (Davies' 40) illustrates how the town treated Paul because of his mother's actions. Paul leaves his past because of the actions displaced by his mother and the guilt he feels because his 'birth was what robbed her of her sanity,' (Davies' 260) explains why Paul left Deptford. However, while Boy merely tries to ignore his Deptford past, Paul tries to create a completely new one and Paul asks Dunstan to write an autobiography that 'in general terms that he was...