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Fifth Business Theme Essay Question

Robertson Davies' Fifth Business Essay

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Robertson Davies' Fifth Business

In the novel 'Fifth Business', the author Robertson Davies is successfully able to relate both the themes of magic and religion throughout. He achieves this relationship between the themes primarily through the characters and their actions. Dunstan Ramsay, Paul Dempster, Mary Dempster and Liselotte Vitzliputzli all help to illustrate the close relationship between magic and religion.

One of the characters that Davies uses to relate the theme of magic and religion is Dunstable Ramsay. Dunny was brought up in a Scottish Presbyterian family in Deptford, Ontario. While in the war, he kept himself busy by reading the New Testament and states 'Arabian Nights and the Bible were getting pretty close',…show more content…

Along with the idea of magic, Eisengrim?s show Soiree of Illusions incorporated themes of myth including Dream of Midas, Vision of Dr. Faust and the Brazen Head of Friar Bacon and wants himself and his illusions ?to be marveled at?. Eisengrim is later subject of a false autobiography written by Dunstan where Eisengrim is portrayed as a wonderful and mysterious person like a saint is. Here the relationship between magic and religion is evident.

Mary Dempster, who is named after a saint can be considered to be a saint in this novel. She is the mother of a famous magician and the wife of a priest. This freely displays the relationship between magic and religion. According to Dunstan, she is considered a fool-saint because she performed three miracles, but without being aware of it. The first involved the rebirth of Surgeoner by an act of charity. The second was the revival of Willie from the dead and the third was her miraculous appearance to Dunstan during the war at Passchendaele.

Liselotte Vitzliputzli otherwise known as Lisel is introduced midway through the novel, but still plays an important element in the theme of magic and religion. The theme of religion is demonstrated when she asks Dunstan ??do you know what my name really means?? Lisel?s last name is the demons name in the play The Vision of Dr. Fautus where Faust was a magician who sold his soul to the devil. During a fight between Lisel and Dunstan, Dustan twists her

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All throughout his life, Dunstan harbors a lot of guilt for a variety of things. It’s his guilt that drove him to look after Mary Dempster later in his life. Even other characters in the story feel guilt for things that also centered around the life of Mary Dempster, albeit, more suppressed.


Dunstan obsession with saints is also very evident throughout the story. His belief that Mary Dempster is actually a saint greatly influenced his adulthood.


Deptford is a very traditional town that immediately condemns people who go against the grain. It is their narrow-mindedness that drew a lot of characters away from the town.

Essay Prompts

1.) Why do you think Dunstan became upset with the article that was published in the school publication?

2.) Dunstan resented his mother because of her actions. How do you think her treatment of him influenced his adult life?

3.) Why do you think Boy and Dunstan were to keen on erasing their past in Deptford?

4.) How important was Liesl’s involvement in Dunstan’s life?

5.) What do you think is the meaning of the book’s title and how important is it to the whole plot?

Multiple Choice Study Questions

1.) Why was Percy mad at Dunstan?
a. because he dated Leola first
b. his sled was faster
c. he was wealthier than Percy
d. he punched him

2.) When did the Dempsters take their daily walks?
a. mornings
b. daybreak
c. early evenings
d. after dinner

3.) What year did Dunstan begin his story?
a. 1908
b. 1898
c. 1919
d. 1918

4.) What is Dunstan’s nickname from childhood?
a. Runny
b. Danny
c. Percy
d. Dunny

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