Impact of Womenin the Process of IndividuationIn the novel Fifth Business written by Robertson Davies, the reader isintroduced to the main character Dunstan Ramsay through a letter illustratinghis life. The comparison of two imperative female characters Mrs. Mary Dempsterand Liesl Vitzliputzli guide Dunstan through his journey of achievingindividuation and purpose as Fifth Business.
Both women helped him uncover anddeal with his source of guilt and personal devil that contribute to his shadow.Liesl aids in Dunstan’s psychological realization that he is Fifth Businesscontrasting Mrs. Dempster who drives Dunstan’s spiritual awakening. Lastly,Liesl develops Dunstan’s animus in contrast to Mrs.
Dempster who allows him tocome to terms with his feminine anima side. Liesl and Mrs. Dempster’sinteraction with Dunstan is brief, however, their psychical influence is whatallows him to achieve self-realization in the end. Both of these charactersinfluence his thoughts and decisions by revealing his shadow, contributing tohis psychological and spiritual impact, and recognizing his anima and animus, thereforeallowing him to reach individuation. At the young age of 10 when Dunstandodged the snowball that Boy threw at him, guilt instantly became a part of hispersonal shadow. Even though Boy threw the snowball and hit Mrs. Dempster, Dunstanfelt responsible for the incident, since the snowball was meant for him.
Thissparked his “lifelong involvement” (Davies 16) with Mrs. Dempster that wasfuelled solely by guilt. Although Dunstan never spoke of it, subconsciously hewas diminishing his emotions, contributing to his shadow. Dunstan admits hisguilt 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 embarrassedto confess his feelings towards the situation so the premise of experiencewasn’t adequately real. His unsatisfied justification explains his life devotedto Mrs.
Dempster. He was so traumatized from his childhood that he feels theneed to devote his whole life to her saying, “I had known very little of lifewithout Mrs. Dempster” (229). Everything is directed towards this, which forcedhim to deal with it by himself instead of help from another person. This isespecially proven when Dunstan carried Mrs. Dempster’s ashes with him after shepassed away.
In order to cope with his shadow, Dunstan camouflaged his guiltwith his obsession with Mrs. Dempster, which became a piece of who he was. Hewas forced to face this part of his shadow that was instilled in him at such ayoung age and understand how cope with it better contributing to hisindividuation as an adult.Similar to Mrs. Dempster another one ofDunstan’s shadows is revealed and helps him realize an element of himself henever knew.
Liesl who works with Eisengrim in the magic show opens Dunstan’seyes to his hidden devil. Dunstan lives his life scared of his own power andliving to his full potential. Liesl says, “Do something inexplicable,irrational, at the devils bidding, and just for the hell of it” (213).
Shepoints out that Dunstan doesn’t have to always be the nice guy who lives in asafety bubble. He pushes his personal devil to the side and instead of livinghis life for himself he lives it for others. Dunstan is thrown out of hiscomfort zone, especially after Liesl is caught pleasuring Faustina and defieseverything he has ever known about women.
Liesl tells Dunstan to grow up “knowyour personal Devil” (213), which is something he did not acknowledge beforemeeting Liesl. She acts as a mentor towards Dunstan, teaching him about thefuture and living in the moment, since all Dunstan lived for until this momentwas Mrs. Dempster. Dunstan starts to understand himself more when he acknowledgeshis 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, allowinghim 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 inorder to cope with his shadows. He was able to understand more about himselfand his emotions that helped him define who he was. Dunstan learned theimportance of acknowledging your shadow as a natural human emotion that isnothing to be afraid of. Dunstan comes across traits including his personaldevil and guilt that he found difficult to accept, however, when was able torecognize them he was closer to individuation and understanding himself on adeeper level.Dunstan’s encounter with Liesl occurslater in the novel but plays an important role in his self-realization and whohe was up to this point in the book. Her psychological impact greatly affectedwhat he thought of himself and changed his thoughts from that point on.
Liesl’sblunt and risky personality is the opposite of Dunstan’s introverted, thinker’sattitude. After getting to know Liesl, Dunstan confides in her and tells allhis secrets of Mrs. Dempster and her miracles. Without any filter, she tellsDunstan, “life is a spectator sport to you” (208) because he let his love forMrs. Dempster consume him. Dunstan hates the foreign feeling of irrationalityand humanity Liesl forces him to face. After the aggressive sex encounter whereDunstan wrestled off Liesl he claimed it was “healing tenderness” (214).
Thisis because Liesl put Dunstan into perspective, saying he was Fifth Businesssitting back watching his life play out. He spent his whole life, putting allhis 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’sproblems instead of ever focusing on himself and his self-development.Mrs. Dempster has been an importantperson in Dunstan’s life ever since he was little. Contrasting Liesl her impacton Dunstan was spiritual instead of psychological which fuels his obsessionwith saints. When Mrs. Dempster was found having sex with the tramp because “hewas very civil…and he wanted it so badly” (35), this becomes a startlingrevelation. Dunstan makes her the center of his spiritual existence, eventhough she is considered to have gone simple and crazy.
He became obsessed withher after she performs what Dunstan thinks are miracles and makes it hismission to prove she is a saint. This is where his journey learning aboutsaints begins and when he writes his successful novel on hagiography. The studyof saints gave him something to work towards and become more spirituallyawakened. Dunstan states her faith “arises from within” (24) instead of tryingto manifest everything externally. His relationship and connection with Mrs.
Dempster shape his future relationships, since he is unable to detach himselffrom her in new relationships. What Dunstan learns from Liesl’s psychologicalimpacts versus Mrs. Dempster’s spiritual impact are very different. Lieslhelped him understand who he was and how to actually live his life after yearsof being accustomed to being the fifth business.
The spiritual impact Mrs.Dempster sparked his obsession for sainthood and his constant craving for adeeper meaning in his lifeThe love Dunstan emits is almostexclusively for Mrs. Dempster because he is so emotionally attached to her fromthe snowball incident. She is the main character impacting the female aspect ofthe male psyche, the anima. After the accident with Mrs. Dempster, Dunstan feltlike he owed her and took care of her the rest of his life.
He became themother figure in her life because he took care of her like a child. Kids atschool 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 kidand going out to play. He spent a lot of time nurturing her, which greatlyimpacted 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 couldonly concentrate his love towards her. Dunstan says, “but my feeling aboutLeola was put askew by my feeling about Mrs. Dempster” (22) because his animaside was so strong, he was unable to love more than one person at once. Thiscould also explain why Boy thought Dunstan was homosexual during the novelbecause he became so in tune with his feminine energy until Liesl. Hisborderline excessive amount of anima contributes to his emotional developmentand self-realization. In order to balance his anima, Liesl is attracted intohis life with her prominent animus energy and allows his unconscious tobalance.
When Dunstan joined the magic show withLiesl the whole experience brought out his animus, which he never acknowledgedbefore. The animus is the masculine psyche that highlights someone’sruthlessness and insensitivity. Liesl helps to develop the balance between maleand female by allowing Dunstan to see a more masculine portrayal of a woman. Hestarted to adopt these characteristics that Liesl encouraged very quicklysaying, ” the day I found myself slapping one of the…terribly wrong withDunstan Ramsay”(202). The reason why he thought something was wrong with himbecause before his anima was the most dominant. Dunstan started gossiping withLiesl, telling all his secrets as well as others when before he “never passedon gossip if he could help it” (202).
Dunstan’s sensitivity becomes blurry ashe starts to distance himself from his emotional side. When Liesl tries toseduce Dunstan and he fights her off by punching her hard in the nose, heasserts and stands up for himself for the first time. After having sex withLiesl he learns it is good to be selfish and put yourself before otherssometimes. Liesl and Mrs. Dempster redefine his anima and animus is very distinctways. The masculinity within Liesl awakens Dunstan’s manliness in comparison toMrs.
Dempster, who forces Dunstan to take a more emotional female role in thatperiod of his life that allow him to continue the process of individuation.The comparison of the twokey female characters Liesl and Mrs. Dempster help Dunstan through his processof becoming aware of his unconscious and conscious mind. Dunstan was able to acknowledgehis shadows and understand how to better cope with them. His spiritual relationshipwith Mrs. Dempster sparks his interest in saints and faith revolving around themiracles she preformed. The psychological impact Liesl has on Dunstan allowshim to realize his role as Fifth Business and his meaning in life that allowshim to feel like a human for once. Lastly Dunstan’s anima and animus psyche becomebalanced and make it possible to individuate properly.
Liesl represents themasculine energy and Mrs. Dempster the feminine energy that perfectly develop eachother to create unity. Contrasting these two women prove how they influenceDunstan’s shadow, their spiritual and psychological impact on Dunstan, andanima and animus that allowed Dunstan to learn from the course of selfrealization and achieve individuation.