Davis\' "Fifth Business": Death of Boy Staunton

Submitted by: Johnny Jimenez

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 business man with a polished appearance but a tortured soul- took the
ultimate plunge into 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,
and fancied each other throughout the years. When Boy came back from the war,
they fell in love, got married and remained that way until the day Leola
Staunton killed herself (due to Boy neglecting her). Throughout their marriage
Boy wanted Leola to be something she could not. Leola tried hard to suit his
lifestyle but eventually Boy realized that she was not what he wanted; “She was
trying hard, but she could not keep pace with Boy\'s social advancement”(page
151). As a result Boy began neglecting her and their children. The neglect grew
and eventually Boy cheated on her. As the neglect grew, so did his guilt. When
Leola eventually killed herself (due to Boy\'s neglect), his guilt grew so big he
could not face it. This could be seen when Boy did not even attend her funeral.
Dunstan Ramsey was Paul\'s life-long friend and enemy. Boy and Dunny ran
somewhat of a parallel life. They both grew up feeling guilt for Mrs. Dempster.
Dunny realized that to live a complete life, one must rid one\'s self of the
guilt. Dunny dealt with his guilt by supporting Mrs. Dempster in her later years.
Boy on the other hand ignored the guilt he felt for Mrs. Dempster and Leola. Boy
did not know, but his conscience was so big that he would soon have to somehow
open it up and face it. Dunny\'s paperweight was the key. His paperweight was the
stone that was hidden in the snowball that hit Mrs. Dempster in the head when
they were children. When Dunny told Boy and Paul about the snowball incident,
Boy realizes what he is guilty of and what he repressed for so many years. Boy
also realizes that Dunny told the truth when he told him: “I\'m simply trying to
recover something of the totality of your life. . . . . It\'s time you tried to
be a human being. ” (page 264) At that point, Boy knew he had to deal with the
shadow he was hiding