mise in Davies’ FifthBusiness. Boy’s guilt stems from various points in his life, including his
failure as a husband to Leola and the snowball incident from his youth. His
denial is so great, however, that he has edited much of it from his memory:
“I threw the snowball – at least you say so… the difference between us is
that you’ve brooded over it, and I’ve forgotten it” (263). But after Boy’s
memory returns, he is found dead by his own hand, with Dunstan’s stone in
his mouth.


Boy had everything: he was a rich businessman who had just received a plum
political appointment
Despite this, Boy’s unacknowledged guilt, built up over a lifetime, becomes
so strong that he is unable to face it when it is revealed to him
the central theme of Fifth Business is not political, but spiritual. Davies
suggests the existence of karma, that there must be an accounting for all
actions taken. Dunstan spends his whole life trying to cope with the guilt
he feels over Mrs. Dempster; Boy buries his guilt for years, and when he
finally faces it, it kills him. This theme is also expressed in Liesl’s
response to Dunstan’s infatuation with Faustina: “You are just like a
little boy, Ramsay… you have no art of dealing with such a situation as a
man of fifty, so you are thrown back to being like a little boy” (221).

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Fifth Business also contains a potent symbol: the stone in the snowball.

The stone represents the guilt of the snowball incident, which Boy has
shunned and Dunstan is forced to carry alone. It also represents Boy’s
approach to life: ” But Boy, for God’s sake, get to know something about
yourself. The stone – in – the – snowball has been characteristic of too
much you’ve done for you to forget it forever!” (264) All of his life, Boy
would downplay his mistakes and cruelties, dismissing them as too minor to
be held accountable. Lastly, the stone represents Boy’s unacknowledged
guilt, which over the years has grown hard, like the stone. The stone in
his mouth signifies a man who has finally tried to swallow his guilt, but
has found it too large and hard to succeed. This symbol is also very
effective: Davies has turned a very mundane object into the focus of one
man’s life, and the end of another’s.


Fifth Business makes the most effective use of guilt-related symbols; the
effect the stone had in shaping Dunstan’s life is simply incredible. By
giving guilt a physical form, Davies has succeeded admirably in showing its
true power while maintaining a cohesive and entertaining narrative.