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Backseat Driver in Life - one's Journey with Guilt (5th Business Novel)

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Backseat Driver in Life

One's Journey with Guilt

People live their lives on the grounds of what they have done in their past. Some even use the feeling of guilt to determine who they become in the world. In the novel, Fifth Business, the author Robertson Davies shows the reader three ways in which someone could deal with weighted guilt in their lives. Davies expresses the unavoidable consequences that can arise from one's guilt that is determined by how they live life and make important decisions, whether conscientiously or subconsciously. One example is letting the guilt consume their life and go years searching for a reason to reduce that feeling, only to gather more guilt along the way. This is an example of how Dunstan Ramsey (Dunny), the narrator of this book deals with his guilt throughout his life. An example of how a character named Paul Dempster deals with his guilt is to run away from it for it was too much for a small boy to handle at the time, but ends up with troubles as a result. Both Dunny and Paul conscientiously recognized their guilt which lead their lives, unlike Percy Staunton (Boy) who did it subconsciously. This third example is how Boy Staunton deals with his guilt, told by Davies, by suppressing the memory of guilt so it may rest at the back of the mind, until he confronts it and spirals into an act of self-hate for the rest of his life.

The life that Dunny Ramsey leads, due to his guilt, is to devote his life to the feeling from his childhood. Dunny has a lot to be guilty about, one being the fact that he is raised Presbyterian, so he finds guilt in every action he does. He also feels guilty about the snowball hitting Mrs. Dempster instead of him, leading to his third guilt which was the premature birth of Paul Dempster. This guilt Dunny carries around controls who he becomes, and in the words of Larry Staples, "As Jung wrote, "The opposites are the ineradicable and indispensable precondition of all psychic life, so much so that life itself is guilt" (CW 14, par. 206)". Staples expresses Carl Jung's meaning of 'life itself is guilt' and it is Dunny himself that recognizes this, and strives to diminish this feeling of guilt throughout his life. This quest of Dunny's turns into an obsession in which he is trying to prove Mrs. Dempster a saint to help his guilt, of her insanity, be less of a constant in his life, and more of a distant, sad past. Davies maintains this idea of Dunny's guilt on page 3 of his novel as he writes, "I was contrite and guilty, for I knew that the snowball had been meant for me, but the Dempsters did not seem to think that." So, as one can see, the way Dunny conscientiously deals with his guilt, leading to his life obsession, it determines his life and his actions from letting guilt in his life and, in the end, be his life.

Regarding Paul Dempster life, one may think that his way to deal with guilt is the most traditional among people of today. The way he deals with his guilt he does conscientiously throughout the novel. Paul takes a path of individuality to overcome or live with his feeling of guilt, resulting from his mothers insanity, which Paul takes upon himself to bare throughout his entire life. In the novel, Fifth Business, Davies writes of page 148, "She is part of the past that cannot be recovered or changed by anything I can do now. My father always told me it was my birth that robbed her of her sanity. So as a child I had to carry the weight of my mother's madness as something that was my own doing. And I had to bear the cruelty of people who thought her kind of madness was funny - a dirty joke. So far as I am concerned, it is over, and if she dies mad, who will not say that she is better dead?" Davies points out to the reader that



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