Fifth Business


Boy Staunton\'s repressed guilt brings about his demise in Davies\' Fifth Business. Boy\'s guilt stems from various points in his life, including his failure as a husband to Leola and the snowball incident from his youth. His denial is so great, however, that he has edited much of it from his memory: "I threw the snowball - at least you say so... the difference between us is that you\'ve brooded over it, and I\'ve forgotten it" (263). But after Boy\'s memory returns, he is found dead by his own hand, with Dunstan\'s stone in his mouth.


Boy had everything: he was a rich businessman who had just received a plum political appointment


Despite this, Boy\'s unacknowledged guilt, built up over a lifetime, becomes so strong that he is unable to face it when it is revealed to him


the central theme of Fifth Business is not political, but spiritual. Davies suggests the existence of karma, that there must be an accounting for all actions taken. Dunstan spends his whole life trying to cope with the guilt he feels over Mrs. Dempster; Boy buries his guilt for years, and when he finally faces it, it kills him. This theme is also expressed in Liesl\'s response to Dunstan\'s infatuation with Faustina: "You are just like a little boy, Ramsay... you have no art of dealing with such a situation as a man of fifty, so you are thrown back to being like a little boy" (221).


Fifth Business also contains a potent symbol: the stone in the snowball. The stone represents the guilt of the snowball incident, which Boy has shunned and Dunstan is forced to carry alone. It also represents Boy\'s approach to life: " But Boy, for God\'s sake, get to know something about yourself. The stone - in - the - snowball has been characteristic of too much you\'ve done for you to forget it forever!" (264) All of his life, Boy would downplay his mistakes and cruelties, dismissing them as too minor to be held accountable. Lastly, the stone represents Boy\'s unacknowledged guilt, which over the years has grown hard, like the stone. The stone in his mouth signifies a man who has finally tried to swallow his guilt, but has found it too large and hard to succeed. This symbol is also very effective: Davies has turned a very mundane object into the focus of one man\'s life, and the end of another\'s.


Fifth Business makes the most effective use of guilt-related symbols; the effect the stone had in shaping Dunstan\'s life is simply incredible. By giving guilt a physical form, Davies has succeeded admirably in showing its true power while maintaining a cohesive and entertaining narrative.