The Book: “Fifth Business”

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The Storyline

“Fifth Business” is a gripping novel written by the renowned Canadian author, Robertson Davies. The book provides a complex narrative that intertwines history, myth, and magic in an extraordinary manner. The storyline revolves around the life of the protagonist, Dunstan Ramsay, and his transformational journey.

Dunstan Ramsay grows up in a small village in rural Canada in the early 20th century. Throughout the book, Ramsay explores themes of guilt, identity, and fate, portraying a deeply psychological and introspective narrative. The title “Fifth Business” refers to a term used in dramatic productions where the role of a minor character significantly influences the actions and outcomes of the main characters.

The Accolades

“Fifth Business” has received widespread critical acclaim and multiple prestigious awards since its publication in 1970. Robertson Davies’ masterful storytelling and unique approach to character development have captivated readers and critics alike.

The book was awarded the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, one of Canada’s most esteemed literary honors. It further solidified Davies’ reputation as one of Canada’s greatest literary talents. “Fifth Business” was also included in the list of Canada Reads Top 10 Essential Novels of the Decade.

Noteworthy Characters

Throughout Ramsay’s transformative journey in “Fifth Business,” several key characters play significant roles in shaping the narrative and the protagonist’s development:

1. Dunstan Ramsay

The main protagonist and narrator of the story, Ramsay is a deeply introspective and intellectual character. He is haunted by the childhood incident where he inadvertently played a prominent role in an event that dramatically impacted the lives of others.

2. Mary Dempster

Mary Dempster is a pivotal character and a source of both enchantment and tragedy. Ramsay rescues her from a traumatic event during his childhood, and she becomes a central figure in his life, influencing his perceptions of guilt, religion, and destiny.

3. Paul Dempster/Dunstan’s Rival

Paul Dempster, also known as Dunstan’s rival, is another character entwined in Ramsay’s life. He becomes a famous magician and enigmatic figure, embodying the darker aspects of Dunstan’s psyche.

4. Boy Staunton

Boy Staunton is a charismatic and ambitious character who goes on to become a successful businessman and politician. His relationship with Ramsay is marked by rivalry and a complex power dynamic, playing a crucial role in Ramsay’s growth.


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