Character Transformation of Dunstan Ramsay in Fifth Business

September 30, 2021 by Essay Writer

Experiences are something that can change a person’s life for the better or for the worse. In the novel Fifth Business, written by Robertson Davies, the main character Dunstan Ramsay encounters many experiences that shape him into the person the reader knows by the end of the novel. Jung’s concept of individuation is the process in which a person’s conscious and unconscious mind come together – the achievement of self-actualization. Using Jung’s concept of individuation and Perrine’s description of what a character is, Davies expresses these ideas in Dunstan. Dunstan’s character is affected from him meeting Mrs. Dempster at the beginning of the novel, who acts like a mother figure towards him and ends up leaving a big impact on his life, when he meets Diana Marfleet while staying in the hospital and after experiencing a life changing event, Dunstan’s character development comes full circle leading him, by the end of the novel, to find his true self.

Dunstan’s process of individuation and character development starts at the beginning of the novel when he meets Mrs. Dempster. Although the only reason he has made an interaction with her was because she was pelted with a snowball on accident that was thrown by Percy. Dunstan feels instant guilt from the snowball accident and from the of the early birth of her son, Paul. Over the time he spent with Mrs. Dempster trying to get over his guilt, he comes to see her as more than just a lady he pities.

Instead, he sees her as a role model, a mother figure and states he loves her, “I had made her what she was, and in such circumstances I must hate her or love her. In a mode that was far too demanding for my age or experience, I loved her” (Davies 24). Jung sees this as the collective unconscious. He believed that all elements of an individual’s life is presented by birth and the environment of a person brings them out. By Dunstan meeting Mrs. Dempster, Dunstan turns from a flat character to a developing character based off the experiences and lessons he has learned from spending time with Mrs. Dempster, starting off the change in his personality and overall self.

Dunstan’s character development continues when he meets Diana Marfleet. After the war, Dunstan wakes up in the hospital after being in a coma for a couple months and as he is there he meets a nurse named Diana Marfleet. Throughout his time spent in the hospital and sometime outside the hospital, Diana had become someone very special and dear to his heart. She changes his life in little ways such as changing his name from Dunstable to Dunstan, “Let me rename you. How on earth did you get yourself called Dunstable?… Why don’t you change it to Dunstan? St. Dunstan was a marvelous person and very much like you-mad about learning, terribly stiff and ster and scowly, and an absolute wizard at withstanding temptation” (Davies 90) and making him feel comfortable about him only having one leg but loving him regardless. Jung describes this as part of the individuation process – the ego. Jung states that the ego is the start of the individuation process being that this is where our sense of identity and existence lies. Although their relationship was short lived, Dunstan’s life completely changed for the better.

Lastly, Dunstan’s life comes full circle after he experiences a heart attack for the second time. After the death of Boy and the events of his heart attack, Dunstan comes to learn how valuable the truth is, “… how could I have written a life of Boy that would satisfied me and yet saved me from murder at the hands of Denyse? … I learned something about the variability of truth as traditional people see it from Boy himself…” (Davies 259).

Jung sees this as Dunstan finally reaching the last stage of the individuation process — his self-actualization. In depth, this can be called the personal unconscious. Jung describes the personal unconscious as a personal growth. This contributes greatly to his character development and the completion of his individuation because he finally comes in tune with his personal unconscious. Dunstan tells the truth about Boy’s death which leads him to become the character the reader knows by the end of the novel – completing his process of individuation and finding his true self.

Throughout Fifth Business, Dunstan has come across many experiences that shape him from the person he is at the beginning of the novel to the person he comes to be at the end of the novel. Dunstan encounters many situations that change the way he is from the beginning of the novel to the end. Davies uses Jung’s concept of individuation in three specific experiences to act as the stepping stones to his process of self-actualization. By meeting Mary Dempster, his first love, mentor and mother figure to him, falling in love with Diana Marfleet which gave him a new output on life and having a heart attack brought Dunstan to become the man the reader learns to know by the end of the novel — completing his quest to finding is true self.


Read more