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Fifth Business Essay

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Fifth Business Essay

There are paths that many people can take throughout their lives. “Fifth Business”, a story written by Robertson Davies, focuses on one person, and that is the main character, which is Dunstan Ramsay. In the novel, he takes the path of the Canadian hero, which helps his personality/character change by doing the following: searching for little Madonna; going through the underworld; and leaving his old life behind to begin a new one, and to discover who he truly is. These are the different steps to be taken by the hero and Dunstan follows his path by completing each step.

One way that Dunstan’s personality/character changes is by going on a search for little Madonna. His journey begins when he gets his call for adventure. The call for adventure lets the him know that his life is about to change. Dunstan’s call for adventure comes when he leaves for Europe for the second time to search for the little Madonna. The little Madonna was what called him to come back to Europe. “The little Madonna was a bee in my bonnet; I wanted to see her again, and quite unreasonably (like a man I knew who lost a treasured walking -stick in the London Blitz and still looks hopefully in every curiosity shop in case it might turn up) I kept hoping to find her” (pg. 123). Dunstan had to leave the life he was living in order to begin his journey. Even though he knew he might never find the little Madonna again, he had to keep looking.

While searching for the little Madonna, Dunstan reaches the second part of his journey, which is the underworld. The underworld is a part of the journey which Dunstan will not be able to complete alone. When he meets with Paul, who is now known as Faustus Legrand, Dunstan realizes that Paul had stolen his pocket-book. “Because somebody at Le grand Cirque forain de St. Vite had stolen my pocket-book, and everything pointed to Paul.”(148) It is at that this time that Dunstan realizes, whether consciously or subconsciously, that he is going to need help to get through this stage of his journey. Then he meets Liesl. Liesl’s role in Dunstan’s journey begins when Dunstan arrives to see Paul’s magic show. Liesl invites Dunstan to come have lunch with her and Paul. It is because of her insistence that Paul and Dunstan become friends that Paul is compelled to repay Dunstan the money he stole. “That night when I was making my usual prudent Canadian Scots count, I found that several bills had found their way into my wallet, slightly but not embarrassingly exceeding the sum that had disappeared from it when last I met with Paul. I began to think better.” When Paul repays Dunstan, Dunstan realizes he can now trust Paul. With the help of Liesl, Dunstan has made a friend with a member of the underworld. These two people will help Dunstan to continue on with his journey.


The final step of Dunstan’s journey is to completely leave his life behind and begin a brand new one, and to discover who he truly is. He enters into a new world. This occurs when Dunstan “became a member of Magnus Eisengrim’s entourage.” (207) He begins to travel with Magnus because he still wants adventure and he knows that it does not occur often. He says: “This looked liked an adventure, and, at fifty, adventures do not come every day.” (211) Dunstan’s journey is based on adventure. He does not know what he is getting into by joining Magnus Eisengrim’s entourage. There will be something different each day; something new and surprisinntering a new world, Dunstan is completing one more step of his journey. Dunstan reaches theg. By e point in his journey where he realizes he is completely abandoning his old world. This is the lowest point in his journey. Dunstan realizes that he is changing. “The day I found myself slapping one of the showgirls on the bottom and winking when she made her ritual protest, I knew that something was terribly wrong with Dunstan. Two things that were wrong I could easily identify: I had become a dangerously indiscreet talker, and I was in love with the beautiful Faustina.” (pg. 215) Dunstan understands that he is different than he used to be. When he was younger he did not gossip and he never betrayed anybody’s confidence. Now, those things do not seem important to him anymore. It is at this point in his journey that Dunstan has completely left his old world behind. Dunstan reaches the stage of his journey, where he is now ready to discover what he set out to find. Dunstan is ready to find out who he is. It is Liesl who allows Dunstan to finally understand himself. “Who are you? Where do you fit into poetry and myth? Do you know who I think you are, Ramsey? I think you are Fifth Business.” (227) Liesl goes on to explain to Dunstan what Fifth Business is and, as he is listening to her, he realizes that she is right. Dunstan has uncovered his purpose in life. Dunstan’s journey is now complete and he is able to go home. He has discovered what he set out to discover. He can now go back to living his old life.

At the beginning of his journey, Dunstan did not know what he was trying to find. He began on an adventure which led him to old friends and new friends. He escaped his old world and began a journey into a new one. With the help of others, Dunstan was able to discover who he is. This turned out to be the purpose of his journey. By completing the steps of the hero’s journey, Dunstan came to understand himself.

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