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Fifth Business

Throughout Fifth Business there was much evidence provided that there were relations between the class of characters from an old style opera and the characters seen in Fifth Business. Clearly there was an association between Dunstable Ramsay’s character and that of an old style opera’s, which was of course the role of Fifth business. In my opinion the five main characters each shared different roles that were originally used in old style operas. This is why I believe that “The characters in Fifth Business are related directly to that of an old style opera.” Originally, there were five main roles in an old style opera. These roles were the Hero, the Heroine, the Villain, the Confidante and the Fifth business. There were also five main characters in Fifth Business, each representing one of the five main characters in which were used in operas. There were many incidents in the book that designated each character to one of the five roles.

Percy Boyd Staunton was characterized as the villain through his smoothly procured riches, his controlling love life and the fact that he was the one who had initially thrown the snowball that resulted in Paul’s pre-mature birth and Mrs. Dempster’s poor

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mental state. Paul Dempster represented the Hero in the novel. Paul overcame the shame that was brought upon by his mother and led a successful and erotic life. He could have been seen as the centre point of the novel because he was always turning up and bringing excitement and life into the novel. In an old style opera there were guidelines and roles in which the characters would follow. There was the heroine who was often a fool, a villain, who was often the rival to the hero. There was a hero, who the heroine often loves; a confidante who was odd but trustworthy who often rivalled the heroin (usually played by a sorceress). Finally, there was the fifth business who was usually the odd man out. He is the one who brings resolution or meaning to the story, or the observer who explains the story.

These same character guidelines were used throughout the novel Fifth Business as well. The heroine, being Mrs. Dempster, conformed to her oiganal trait of being the fool. She also followed the tradition of the heroine loving the hero, Paul, even though he was her son. The villain, who was portrayed by Boy Staunton, rivalled the hero of the novel who was Paul. Paul had always held a grudge on Boy for the insulting remarks that he had made as a child against his mother. Paul also ended up murdering Boy in the end that followed the original guideline of the hero killing the villain. The confidante, being odd but trustworthy was obviously Liesl. The grotesquely ugly woman who Dunstable confessed everything to. Her traditional rivalry with the heroine was subtle in the novel but still present for she knew that Dunstable loved Mrs. Dempster while she secretly admired him as well. Lastly, the fifth business who was characterized by Ramsey was the observer who explained the story. He was the odd man out, always searching for meaning and significance.

Outside of each characters role there were also many schemes that unfurled throughout the novel, which related directly to the schemes that took place in old style operas. For example, the fifth business is supposedly the one who knows the secret of the hero’s birth. The novel follows this protocol in that Dunstable knows of Paul’s pre-mature birth and how it came to be. Also, the fifth business traditionally outlasts many of the other characters, which occurred in the novel as well. When the heroine is at loss, it was the duty of the fifth business to come to her aid, relative to how Dunstable helped Mrs. Dempster throughout her hardest times, supplying her with the money she needed and being her only friend. There is much evidence provided throughout the novel and many associations given to the fact that the characters in Fifth Business were related directly to that of an old style opera. From the description given by Liesl of what roles opera characters played and of the plots and schemes that transpired during an old style opera, we can easily see the similarity in relation to the book.

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