The seemingly innocuous life of Dunstan Ramsey: "Fifth Business" by Robertson Davies

Essay by camyyHigh School, 12th gradeA+, October 2007

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Although Dunstan’s life seemed to be innocuous, he is successful in proving that he had a life outside the classroom. Society is functional on the simple factor that people work. If people do not work, society will become chaotic. How does one manage to have a life outside of work? Robertson Davis, the author of the novel Fifth business, demonstrates that Dunstan Ramsey, (main character) has a life outside of the classroom. He accomplishes this by showing Dunstan’s obsession with four other characters in the novel. This obsession compensates for Dunstan’s minimal life. His relationships with Paul Dempster, Boy Staunton, Mary Dempster and Leola, along with the direct link to occurrences help prove he had a life outside of the classroom.

Dunstan is retiring from teaching at a Canadian school. There is a tribute presented to him, however he does not believe it justifies his life so he sets out to prove them wrong by writing a defence to his life.

Thus, explaining the values of his life in terms of fifth business, the novel. Don’t completely understand? The novel is substantially a letter to the headmaster, hoping to prove that he had a life outside the classroom. “And that, headmaster, is all I have to tell you.” Chapter 7 pg. 257 Now you may be asking yourself, what is fifth business? Simply put, it is a character from an opera that has no opposites: it is the odd man out, who is neither heroine nor lover, neither rival nor villain. If one reads between the lines, it is easy to see that Dunstan is Fifth business. In chapter 5, Liselotte Vitziputzli, fifth business herself, tries to explain to Dunstan who he is, rather than what he is.

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