Fifth Business

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Fifth Business

Guilt is defined as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime or wrong
committed. Guilt is a major theme in the novel Fifth Business. Dunny has been raised in a strict
Presbyterian household which has encouraged him to feel guilt about many minor things. Even
though Paul was not born at the time of the snowball incident, Paul Dempster still feels guilty
towards his mothers simple mindedness. Percy Boyd Stautons repressed guilt does considerable
damage and ultimately recoils on himself. In Fifth Business many characters feel guilt due to the
snowball incident.
Dunny Ramsay feels extremely guilty because he had anticipated that Percy, with whom he
had been arguing, would throw one final snowball at him before he eats dinner. He felt Mrs.
Ramsay’s pain when she was crying. “I had never heard an adult cry in pain before and the sound
was terrible for me.”(Page 3) Dunny is still very young, and most likely, he has the perception
that the adults should be the strong ones. To hear Mrs. Dempster cry must have been very
emotionally difficult for him. The guilt Dunny experienced, will forever remain with him and his
friend Paul Dempster for the rest of the novel.
When Paul Dempster is old enough to understand, he blames himself for causing his
mother simple mindedness because it was his birth that caused it. The townspeople worsened his
guilt by keeping a distance from him. “The dislike so many people felt for his mother - dislike for
the queer and persistently unfortunate they attached to the unoffending son.”(Page 34) Paul
Dempster is looked at down upon because of his mother’s actions that affect him. Once Paul
understands his situation, his guilt then lives with him forever, unlike Percy whose guilt is
undetected.
Percy Boyd Stauton apparently feels no guilt at all throughout the novel. When Ramsay
tries to confront him with the responsibility, Percy takes no responsibility when he states, “I threw
a snowball at you and I guess it gave you a good smack.”(Page 16) Percy seriously thought he
did not hit Mrs. Dempster which resulted in no guilt until another part of the novel. When
Ramsay encounters Stauton when he is sixty years of age, Percy then for the first time remembers
the incident. This leads Percy Boyd Stauton to go through many different feelings. When
Ramsay reminded Percy about the incident many years later, he becomes a bully through his guilt.
In Fifth Business, Davies uses guilt to affect the lives of Dunny Ramsay, Paul Dempster
and Percy Boyd Stauton, through the snowball incident. Percy Boyd Stauton keeps his guilt
inside which causes more anger in the end. Paul Dempster feels guilt when he has the ability to
understand, and blames all of his mother’s problems on himself. Dunny has strong morals due to
his practice in religion which causes him to feel guilt towards many minor things. In conclusion,
guilt will always be kept inside until the individual has the strength to face the fear and accept his
fate.

English Essays

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