‘Role of Women in the Novel ‘Fifth Business’

‘Roleof Women in the Novel ‘Fifth Business’

Ina paper by Dorothy L. Sayers, she states that “Wherever you find agreat man, you will find a great mother or a great wife standingbehind him (Prevede, p.1).” That is a very true statement when onetakes a keen look into the novel ‘Fifth Business’ because therole of women is brought out as being supportive to the developmentof the male character. Most of the male characters in the novel whointeract with the female characters are influenced by them in one wayof another and those who do not interact with women are also affectedin some way. Man as a societal construct is dependent on the moldingand structuring of maternal care and female insight. In the novel‘fifth business’ by Robertson Davies, the author deliberatelybrings out the influence women have on the psychological growth ofmale characters. In the novel, the psyche of growth of Dunny Ramsayis traced chronologically from childhood to adulthood and how theprocess is guided by the female characters in his life. MaryDempster, Diana Marfeet, and Mrs. Ramsay are used very instrumentallyin the maturation of Dunny throughout the novel, with each womanplaying a very significant role in the process (Prevede. p.1).

Thefirst female figure in Dunny’s life is his mother, Mrs. Ramsay, whoteaches Dunny to be a person who maintains control over his own life.Dustan imitates most of his mother’s characters. The mother isdescribed as being a determined and controlling spirit and spiritlike that of a lion. When Dunny’s mother’s love shifts and shestarts to care more for the Dempster’s family than Dunny himself,he feels bad. He develops a sense of alienation and deep isolationbecause he wanted his mother to care like before. The lack ofmother’s love makes him to start learning and maturing faster thanhe could have after noticing that there was no more care from themother who once cared deeply for him. Lack of motherly love at suchas tender age changes into deep resentment for her, as Dunny’sfeelings also change. The result of all this is a Dustan who isdeeply isolated, with self-controlling mentality and with a strongstance towards women (Prevede, p.1).

Generally,women are viewed as being supporters and helpers in the maturationprocess of men. Another woman who plays a very important role inDunny’s life is Diana Marfeet. It is also Diana that Dunny gets tohave the first realistic and meaningful romantic relationship with.She becomes his second maternal female figure by nursing him back tolife after he was badly injured in the war and left for the dead. Shebrings her back to life after six months of being in unconscious.After waking from his unconsciousness, he describes it asa blissful paradise. The author characterizes Diana as second motherto him for bringing him back to life just like his mother brought himto life during birth in the first time. Dunnystates that “she was too much of a mother to me.” (Davies, p. 81Uwo.ca, n.p). Shedoes not stop at bringing him to life alone, but also initiates hismaturation into manhood both mentally and sexually allowing him tostart making decisions of his own. Diana actually had plans to marryhim, and when he discovers, he refuses. He says that he does not wantanother mother- figure in his life after he had just been liberatedfrom the biological one through death. That statement says a lotabout how lack of a mother’s love during his childhood reallyaffected Dunny’s maturation in terms of his view of women. Here,women are given a lot of power over how men turn out in theirrelationships with women later in life. Dunny was attracted to Dianaas a mother, something that drove him away realizing that therelationship could not have lasted because of what he felt aboutmothers. Dunny did not even feel much sorrow after receiving thenews that his parents died during the influenza pandemic of early1918 when they received the news that he and his brother were dead.If his mother died because she thought that her sons were dead, thatis an indication of deep love for them. Therefore, women can are alsodepicted to hold the role of caring and loving their families(Prevede,p. 1).Dianagoes ahead to rename Dunny to Dunstan, after the saint who battledthe devil’s temptations. She goes ahead to teach him the essentialsof life and the changing the name was necessary for completing thetransformation. Dunstan was making a transformation from the deadback to life and also from an old life into a new one. Dunstan likethe idea of a new name as it gave him the strength and psychologicalambition to finish and realize transformation into a new person. Hesays, “I liked the idea of a new name it suggested new freedom andnew personality (Davies &amp Marc, p. 31-9).”

Finally,the third woman whose role had great impact on the maturation ofDunstan was Mary Dempster. Mary is a great inspiration to Dunstan inhis longing for knowledge in saints, mythology, and history. He seesMary as a saint as opposed to the entire society that perceive him asinsane, regarding her actions as driven by insanity. As far asDunstan is concerned, Mary had performed three legit miracles,something that make her saint-like to him. One of the miracles waswhen she brought Dunstan’s brother back to life from the dead,although the doctor believed that the brother was never really deadand Mrs. Ramsay is angered by Mary’s presence in the hospital. Hebelieved that Mary’s actions were driven by the goodness in herheart to do good to people. That was part of his motivation to jointhe army and help his country in the war effort. He remains amazedand in great admiration for Mary’s unorthodox actions and he saysthat “the stranger her conduct became, and the more the villagepitied and dismissed her, the worse my (Dunny’s) obsessiongrew.”(Davies 24). Dunstan learns from Mary Dempster to stop givingmuch regard to the moral rules in the society and to unselfishly actto the betterment of other people in the society. He is so attachedto Mary that even after losing contact with her, he goes looking forher and finally finds her in Toronto under the care of an aunt. Theystart their friendship over as mature adults not as little boy andgirl who once knew each other back in the day.

Toconclude, the whole novel is full of instances where women shape thelife of the main character Dunstan. It reveals the role women play ormust play for the proper maturation of a man in the society.


Davies,Robertson, and Marc, Vietor. Fifthbusiness.Penguin books, 1977.

Davies,Robertson. &quotFifth Business. 1970.&quot TheDeptford Trilogy(1977).

PrevedeNicholas. “Female Riole in Fifth Business.” studymode.com. 20thOctober, 2014. Web. 9thApril 2015&lthttp://www.studymode.com/essays/Female-Roles-In-Fifth-Business-62236966.html&gt

Uwo.ca.“Role of Women.”.ir.lib.uwo.ca. Web. 9thApril 2015&lthttp://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3879&ampcontext=etd&gt