Good And Evil In Fifth Business

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Morality In Fifth Business: A Study of Good and Evil
Is there a difference between good and evil? Throughout Fifth Business, Robertson Davies attempts to address this seemingly simple question. Davies writes against the simple system of good vs. evil, instead arguing that there is a spectrum of morality that governs our actions instead of definitive rights and wrongs. Davies conveys this through plot and style devices woven into the narrative of the life experiences of Dunstan “Dunny” Ramsey, who encounters a variety of non-orthodox characters such as his supposed saint Mary Dempster, his friend and rival Percy “Boy” Staunton, and even himself, that challenge what society thinks of as good and evil. Throughout Fifth Business, Robertson Davies
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In the public eye, Boy is known, liked, and respected by almost everyone due to his actions such as his service to Canada during World War II and his donations to charities such as that of Joel Surgeoner's (237) However, upon peering deeper into his life, Boy becomes much more of a morally mixed character. He effectively causes the mental decline of Mary Dempster through his throwing of the snowball and later refuses to accept his role in the degradation of her mental state. He uses his company, the Alpha Corporation, as a means to help the poor during the Great Depression, but is almost purely motivated by the vast monetary gain that he stands to gain from others’ financial struggles (237). His rapid rise in social standing causes the destruction of his wife Leola Cruikshank, but he makes no attempt to help save her . However, Boy views himself as the constant moral good for the majority of the novel, as can be seen by his overwhelming arrogance; however, he eventually realizes that his entire life has been unfulfilling due to his constant pursuit of his own selfish definition of “good,” leading to a passage that, in stark contrast to Boy’s outwardly positive appearance, channels despair and a feeling of uselessness that eventually leads to his fall from grace and eventual demise (227). Although Boy viewed himself as a force for good, his actions indicated a much more …show more content…
Dunny is, much like Boy, also incredibly narcissistic, which can be seen by the condescending tone that Dunny takes throughout the narrative, as well as in the object of the narrative itself (6) Dunny’s experiences also indicate a much more mixed view of morality than a simple binary system. He observes, rather than acts, on events such as the downfall of Leola and Boy, while placing himself in the company of morally grey characters, even befriending Lisel a representation of the devil. This all gathers together to paint the picture of someone that, while not being able to be definitively called evil, can certainly not be called good due to his morally questionable actions. He fails to save many of the characters who face crises during the book, including Leola, Boy, and eventually even Mary Dempster. Davies uses Dunny as an example of his case against the system of good and evil because even as the protagonist and main character who attempts in every possible way to convey himself as the moral good in the story, he still fails to convey this sense due to his own immoral actions and inaction as others commit immoral actions or destroy themselves around him. However, Dunstan never repeats Boy’s mistake of assuming that morality is black-and-white; he befriends the devil and makes a saint of a madwoman, demonstrating

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