Impact of Women
in the Process of Individuation

In the novel Fifth Business written by Robertson Davies, the reader is
introduced to the main character Dunstan Ramsay through a letter illustrating
his life. The comparison of two imperative female characters Mrs. Mary Dempster
and Liesl Vitzliputzli guide Dunstan through his journey of achieving
individuation and purpose as Fifth Business. Both women helped him uncover and
deal with his source of guilt and personal devil that contribute to his shadow.
Liesl aids in Dunstan’s psychological realization that he is Fifth Business
contrasting Mrs. Dempster who drives Dunstan’s spiritual awakening. Lastly,
Liesl develops Dunstan’s animus in contrast to Mrs. Dempster who allows him to
come to terms with his feminine anima side. Liesl and Mrs. Dempster’s
interaction with Dunstan is brief, however, their psychical influence is what
allows him to achieve self-realization in the end. Both of these characters
influence his thoughts and decisions by revealing his shadow, contributing to
his psychological and spiritual impact, and recognizing his anima and animus, therefore
allowing him to reach individuation.

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At the young age of 10 when Dunstan
dodged the snowball that Boy threw at him, guilt instantly became a part of his
personal shadow. Even though Boy threw the snowball and hit Mrs. Dempster, Dunstan
felt responsible for the incident, since the snowball was meant for him. This
sparked his “lifelong involvement” (Davies 16) with Mrs. Dempster that was
fuelled solely by guilt. Although Dunstan never spoke of it, subconsciously he
was diminishing his emotions, contributing to his shadow. Dunstan admits his
guilt consumed him saying, “so I was alone with my guilt, and it tortured me” (15)
that proves how he was greatly impacted by the snowball incident. He was too embarrassed
to confess his feelings towards the situation so the premise of experience
wasn’t adequately real. His unsatisfied justification explains his life devoted
to Mrs. Dempster. He was so traumatized from his childhood that he feels the
need to devote his whole life to her saying, “I had known very little of life
without Mrs. Dempster” (229). Everything is directed towards this, which forced
him to deal with it by himself instead of help from another person. This is
especially proven when Dunstan carried Mrs. Dempster’s ashes with him after she
passed away. In order to cope with his shadow, Dunstan camouflaged his guilt
with his obsession with Mrs. Dempster, which became a piece of who he was. He
was forced to face this part of his shadow that was instilled in him at such a
young age and understand how cope with it better contributing to his
individuation as an adult.

Similar to Mrs. Dempster another one of
Dunstan’s shadows is revealed and helps him realize an element of himself he
never knew. Liesl who works with Eisengrim in the magic show opens Dunstan’s
eyes to his hidden devil. Dunstan lives his life scared of his own power and
living to his full potential. Liesl says, “Do something inexplicable,
irrational, at the devils bidding, and just for the hell of it” (213). She
points out that Dunstan doesn’t have to always be the nice guy who lives in a
safety bubble. He pushes his personal devil to the side and instead of living
his life for himself he lives it for others. Dunstan is thrown out of his
comfort zone, especially after Liesl is caught pleasuring Faustina and defies
everything he has ever known about women. Liesl tells Dunstan to grow up “know
your personal Devil” (213), which is something he did not acknowledge before
meeting Liesl. She acts as a mentor towards Dunstan, teaching him about the
future and living in the moment, since all Dunstan lived for until this moment
was Mrs. Dempster. Dunstan starts to understand himself more when he acknowledges
his personal devil and punches Liesl in the nose when she tries to seduce him.
This experience caused Dunstan to escape his boundaries and reveal his shadow, allowing
him to begin to act like a human and have a new outlook on life. Liesl and Mrs.
Dempster made Dunstan aware of his guilt and personal devil he repressed in
order to cope with his shadows. He was able to understand more about himself
and his emotions that helped him define who he was. Dunstan learned the
importance of acknowledging your shadow as a natural human emotion that is
nothing to be afraid of. Dunstan comes across traits including his personal
devil and guilt that he found difficult to accept, however, when was able to
recognize them he was closer to individuation and understanding himself on a
deeper level.

Dunstan’s encounter with Liesl occurs
later in the novel but plays an important role in his self-realization and who
he was up to this point in the book. Her psychological impact greatly affected
what he thought of himself and changed his thoughts from that point on. Liesl’s
blunt and risky personality is the opposite of Dunstan’s introverted, thinker’s
attitude. After getting to know Liesl, Dunstan confides in her and tells all
his secrets of Mrs. Dempster and her miracles. Without any filter, she tells
Dunstan, “life is a spectator sport to you” (208) because he let his love for
Mrs. Dempster consume him. Dunstan hates the foreign feeling of irrationality
and humanity Liesl forces him to face. After the aggressive sex encounter where
Dunstan wrestled off Liesl he claimed it was “healing tenderness” (214). This
is because Liesl put Dunstan into perspective, saying he was Fifth Business
sitting back watching his life play out. He spent his whole life, putting all
his love into Mrs. Dempster she says, “you are human, like other people” (212).
Liesl allows Dunstan to see how he makes himself responsible for other people’s
problems instead of ever focusing on himself and his self-development.

Mrs. Dempster has been an important
person in Dunstan’s life ever since he was little. Contrasting Liesl her impact
on Dunstan was spiritual instead of psychological which fuels his obsession
with saints. When Mrs. Dempster was found having sex with the tramp because “he
was very civil…and he wanted it so badly” (35), this becomes a startling
revelation. Dunstan makes her the center of his spiritual existence, even
though she is considered to have gone simple and crazy. He became obsessed with
her after she performs what Dunstan thinks are miracles and makes it his
mission to prove she is a saint. This is where his journey learning about
saints begins and when he writes his successful novel on hagiography. The study
of saints gave him something to work towards and become more spiritually
awakened. Dunstan states her faith “arises from within” (24) instead of trying
to manifest everything externally. His relationship and connection with Mrs.
Dempster shape his future relationships, since he is unable to detach himself
from her in new relationships. What Dunstan learns from Liesl’s psychological
impacts versus Mrs. Dempster’s spiritual impact are very different. Liesl
helped him understand who he was and how to actually live his life after years
of being accustomed to being the fifth business. The spiritual impact Mrs.
Dempster sparked his obsession for sainthood and his constant craving for a
deeper meaning in his life

The love Dunstan emits is almost
exclusively for Mrs. Dempster because he is so emotionally attached to her from
the snowball incident. She is the main character impacting the female aspect of
the male psyche, the anima. After the accident with Mrs. Dempster, Dunstan felt
like he owed her and took care of her the rest of his life. He became the
mother figure in her life because he took care of her like a child. Kids at
school began to notice and he said, “some of them had nicknamed me Nursie” (21)
because he was always visiting her on his break instead of being a normal kid
and going out to play. He spent a lot of time nurturing her, which greatly
impacted his emotions and caused him to become sensitive. Early on in his life,
Dunstan gets to the point when he felt like he was falling in love with Mrs.
Dempster as he says, “I was in love with Mrs. Dempster” (22).  Through his relationship with Mrs. Dempster,
Dunstan was able to connect with his feminine energy and because of that could
only concentrate his love towards her. Dunstan says, “but my feeling about
Leola was put askew by my feeling about Mrs. Dempster” (22) because his anima
side was so strong, he was unable to love more than one person at once. This
could also explain why Boy thought Dunstan was homosexual during the novel
because he became so in tune with his feminine energy until Liesl. His
borderline excessive amount of anima contributes to his emotional development
and self-realization. In order to balance his anima, Liesl is attracted into
his life with her prominent animus energy and allows his unconscious to

        When Dunstan joined the magic show with
Liesl the whole experience brought out his animus, which he never acknowledged
before. The animus is the masculine psyche that highlights someone’s
ruthlessness and insensitivity. Liesl helps to develop the balance between male
and female by allowing Dunstan to see a more masculine portrayal of a woman. He
started to adopt these characteristics that Liesl encouraged very quickly
saying, ” the day I found myself slapping one of the…terribly wrong with
Dunstan Ramsay”(202). The reason why he thought something was wrong with him
because before his anima was the most dominant. Dunstan started gossiping with
Liesl, telling all his secrets as well as others when before he “never passed
on gossip if he could help it” (202). Dunstan’s sensitivity becomes blurry as
he starts to distance himself from his emotional side. When Liesl tries to
seduce Dunstan and he fights her off by punching her hard in the nose, he
asserts and stands up for himself for the first time. After having sex with
Liesl he learns it is good to be selfish and put yourself before others
sometimes. Liesl and Mrs. Dempster redefine his anima and animus is very distinct
ways. The masculinity within Liesl awakens Dunstan’s manliness in comparison to
Mrs. Dempster, who forces Dunstan to take a more emotional female role in that
period of his life that allow him to continue the process of individuation.

The comparison of the two
key female characters Liesl and Mrs. Dempster help Dunstan through his process
of becoming aware of his unconscious and conscious mind. Dunstan was able to acknowledge
his shadows and understand how to better cope with them. His spiritual relationship
with Mrs. Dempster sparks his interest in saints and faith revolving around the
miracles she preformed. The psychological impact Liesl has on Dunstan allows
him to realize his role as Fifth Business and his meaning in life that allows
him to feel like a human for once. Lastly Dunstan’s anima and animus psyche become
balanced and make it possible to individuate properly. Liesl represents the
masculine energy and Mrs. Dempster the feminine energy that perfectly develop each
other to create unity. Contrasting these two women prove how they influence
Dunstan’s shadow, their spiritual and psychological impact on Dunstan, and
anima and animus that allowed Dunstan to learn from the course of self
realization and achieve individuation.


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