Feminism In Fifth Business

1550 Words 7 Pages
“When the personal, emotional, sexual experiences of women’s lives gained significance as legitimate social concerns with political consequences, men were forced to examine their own socially constructed roles as men…” (Plain and Sellers) This notion takes shape in Robertson Davies’s 1970 novel, Fifth Business. The novel presents an interesting debate over whether or not it is a feminist text since it was written by a non-feminist man. However, Fifth Business was authored during the second wave of feminism, a prominent movement which focused heavily on gynocriticism, defined as a form of feminist literary criticism that “seeks to appropriate female literacy” (O’Connor), and consequently may have had unknowingly had an effect on the way in which …show more content…
There is a defined mould that women and men are expected to fill, yet these gender-based standards are near impossible to meet since everyone is unique. Those surrounding women usually consist of being weak, submissive, quiet, pretty subordinates to men (Brewer). Fortunately, most female characters in Fifth Business do not adhere to these stereotypes. For example, Liesl is just as strong as Dunstan as evidenced by the fight between the two of them. However, not all female characters in the novel are as fortunate as Liesl in that respect, such as Leola Staunton. Through her, Fifth Business shows the heartbreaking impact that the pressures of gender roles can have on someone. Leola’s husband’s hopes for her fit perfectly into the traditional gender-based stereotypes, which are then accentuated due to their position in high-class society. So Leola tries to be the “perfect wife” for Boy, however, who she is is not the “ideal woman” of the time. Soon after, she comes to this realization, and Dunny explains, “[Leola] had lost heart in the fight to become the sort of sophisticated, cultivated, fashionably alert woman Boy wanted for a wife.” (Davies ) As a result, Boy not becomes fed up and bored with her. He emotionally abuses her, cheats on her, all of which drives her to attempt suicide. In the end, she could not be Boy’s “perfect wife”, and sadly, a woman who does not meet the gendered personality guidelines is …show more content…
Female characters in Fifth Business are mostly treated poorly, however, these aspects show the very real struggles that women have to undergo in society. The horrible stories presented are not glossed over, and the cruelty behind them is acknowledged. The most prominent issue exemplified in the novel is objectification. Objectification is defined as the seeing and/or treating a person as an object, often used in relation to objectification occurring in the sexual realm (Papadaki). The main instance of objectification occurs in Gyges And King Candaules. During said section, Boy Staunton takes photos of Leola. In these photos, she is posing completely naked. Boy then insists on looking at them while both Dunstan and Leola are present. Leola protests, understandably not wanting to look at them with Dunstan. Boy then proceeds to humiliate her, saying, “‘You’ll never see pictures of a prettier girl… Of course it isn’t nice! Only fools worry about what’s nice. Now sit here by me, and Dunny on the other side…’” (Davies 149). Leola is uncomfortable in the situation, but Boy actually enjoys her discomfort. Dunny, angry with Boy, talks to him after, comparing this instance to the story of Gyges and King Candaules. He explains that in the story, Candaules insists that his friend, Gyges see his wife naked. The story has two endings, both of which end badly for Candaules, with him

Related Documents