Fifth Business

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Boy (Percy Boyd) Staunton Character Analysis

Boy grows from being a petulant and irresponsible young boy to an ambitious and egotistic man. He is a genius with finance and manages to avoid failure during the Great Depression. He receives honors in WWI, marries his childhood sweetheart, Leola, with whom he has two children, and is all but a celebrity. But despite all of this good fortune he is unhappy. He carries on multiple affairs, and is completely unfazed when Leola discovers this. After Leola dies, he marries another woman named Denyse, who helps him to a rocky but ultimately successful career in politics. Even this is not enough to make Boy happy, and he remains unfulfilled. Though he threw the snowball that injured Mrs. Dempster, he has no memory of their family at all. Boy dies in an apparent car wreck with the stone from the snowball in his mouth—he is most likely killed by Paul.

Boy (Percy Boyd) Staunton Quotes in Fifth Business

The Fifth Business quotes below are all either spoken by Boy (Percy Boyd) Staunton or refer to Boy (Percy Boyd) Staunton. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Religion, Faith, and Morality Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Fifth Business published in 2001.
Part 3 Quotes

It was characteristic of Boy throughout his life that he was always the quintessence of something that somebody else had recognized and defined.

Related Characters: Dunstan Ramsay (speaker), Boy (Percy Boyd) Staunton
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

The contrast between Boy and Ramsay couldn't be clearer. Boy grows up to be a conceited, successful person, who makes lots of money and succeeds in everything he does. And yet Boy defines himself by his outward success: his material wealth, his professions, and particularly his ability to become what people want him to be. At every turn, Boy measures himself against others' opinions and beliefs about him. On the other hand, Ramsay never achieves remotely the same success that Boy achieves--but he doesn't seem to care too much what other people think of him (even when he gets his medal from the King, he's strangely indifferent, thinking of the occasion as an example of the arbitrariness and meaningless of success). Instead, Ramsay maintains control over the purity of his own spirit: his life and his achievements in life are always secondary to his inner happiness. (One could argue that such a way of living is heavily influenced by Christian ideals.)

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Part 6 Quotes

Boy had always been fond of the sexual pleasure that women could give him, but I doubt if he ever knew much about women as people.

Related Characters: Dunstan Ramsay (speaker), Boy (Percy Boyd) Staunton
Page Number: 220
Explanation and Analysis:

Boy, we're told, marries someone new, but Dunstan isn't optimistic about their chances for happiness. Dunstan knows Boy pretty well at this point, and he claims that Boy is more interested in women as objects than he is in women as human beings: as far as he's concerned, women are just devices to help him toward sexual gratification.

It's important to take Ramsay's critique of Boy's sexism with a grain of salt. While Boy is in many ways the principle antagonist of the story, our impressions are filtered through the prism of Ramsay's own experiences and perceptions, to the point where we really don't know anything about him. In many ways, Ramsay's critique of Boy sounds a lot like the critique we could make of Ramsay himself: he's clueless around women, and never really understands them as people (although his encounter with Liesl could be interpreted as a turning point). As the novel goes on, Ramsay seems to become more confident in the legitimacy of his own philosophy of life, and more critical of Boy's: as he sees it, Boy lives for eternal pleasure, and fails to be truly content because he's too invested in what he can "get out of" other people (sexual gratification, for example).

“You created a God in your own image, and when you found out he was no good you abolished him. It’s a quite common form of psychological suicide.”

Related Characters: Dunstan Ramsay (speaker), Boy (Percy Boyd) Staunton
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

In this confrontational scene, Boy and Ramsay finally argue with one another about the ways they've lived their lives. Ramsay notes that Boy has become an atheist: in Ramsay's view, Boy has given up not only on God, but on himself, and on life. Boy has always been a narcissist: he was his own God. Now that Boy has seem himself as he truly is (flawed, vain, weak), he naturally gives up on "God" as well.

Ramsay's interpretation of Boy's life is insightful in the way it associates atheism with narcissism. Some religious people (like Dunstan, apparently) argue that an atheist is a person who values nothing more highly than human life, and his own human life in particular (this is a debatable interpretation, however). The passage also makes the paradoxical point that people who live "for other people" (i.e., trying to please or impress them) may be more narcissistic and self-hating than people like Ramsay, who seem to set themselves apart from worldly concerns and embrace their own souls. Because Boy has no real respect for himself, he can't have any respect for other human beings, and so he treats others as mere objects.

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Boy (Percy Boyd) Staunton Character Timeline in Fifth Business

The timeline below shows where the character Boy (Percy Boyd) Staunton appears in Fifth Business. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: “Mrs. Dempster”
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...began. Young Dunny (short for Dunstable) has been spending the afternoon sledding with his friend, Percy, who is angry that Dunny’s sled is faster than his even though it is old... (full context)
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...good excuse, and tells his parents everything except that the snowball had been thrown by Percy, and was meant for him. (full context)
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...Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Roman Catholic. There are two doctors, Dr. McCausland and Dr. Staunton, Percy’s father. The village was built by the Athelstan family, who made their fortune in lumber... (full context)
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...is convinced that the premature birth of Paul Dempster is his fault. He talks to Percy about it, but Percy tells him that the snowball hit his head, as it was... (full context)
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5. As time passes, Percy’s refusal to accept guilt eventually translates to Dunny’s inability to blame him anymore—he comes to... (full context)
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...words, and is able to defend himself against taunts. He has an insult saved for Percy should Percy ever give him any trouble: Mrs. Staunton calls her son “Pidgy Boy-Boy”—this would... (full context)
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...up quite a bit—Leola is now the town beauty, and is known to be dating Percy. (full context)
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In spring, the most significant piece of gossip in the town is that Percy and Mabel Heighington (a notoriously promiscuous young girl) have been caught having sex by Mabel’s... (full context)
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...are angry, his classmates admire Dunny for his brave decision. Leola, who still pines for Percy but who has not seen him since he left for school, makes it clear that... (full context)
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...it might look. But the night before he leaves she tells him she has forgotten Percy and now loves only him. (full context)
Part 2: “I Am Born Again”
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...and his reception is elaborate. As he is sitting onstage during the ceremony, he notices Percy and Leola sitting together in the front row of the audience, and Leola is wearing... (full context)
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After the ceremony, Dunstan takes Leola in his arms in front of Percy and kisses her. Percy nervously tells Dunstan of he and Leola’s engagement, and Dunstan good-naturedly... (full context)
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...one ever thought Leola would end up with him—she was always plainly in love with Percy. He tells him about how his parents died—how his mother busily nursed everyone who was... (full context)
Part 3: “My Fool-Saint”
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While Dunstan cuts a rather dull figure as a university student, Percy is exactly the opposite—he has changed his name from “Percy Boyd” to “Boy,” which suits... (full context)
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Boy worships the Prince of Wales, believing him to be the ideal man, and endeavors to... (full context)
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Dunstan says he must admit that he is indebted to Boy for his financial advice. Boy manages his investments and makes Dunstan into a financially very... (full context)
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Boy, though he is engaged to Leola, carries on affairs with multiple women, having come out... (full context)
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3. Dunstan is Boy’s best man at his wedding. Leola is a radiant bride and Boy a fetching groom,... (full context)
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5. Back at school, Dunstan’s teaching duties keep him busy. Boy is also beginning a kind of career in education, only he is educating his wife.... (full context)
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5. Boy’s father never visits, in part because Boy has converted to Anglicanism, and Dr. Staunton refuses... (full context)
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8. The following spring, in 1929, Dunstan gets a call from Boy, who tells him to sell certain stocks immediately. When the market crashes, Dunstan’s small fortune... (full context)
Part 4: “Gyges and King Candaules”
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1. Boy makes a fortune off of the Great Depression because he is in the sugar business,... (full context)
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Though Dunstan acts as Boy’s confidante, he has no interest in involving himself in the troubles of Boy’s marriage—he simply... (full context)
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The next time he goes to their house for dinner, Boy asks what he thought of the photos. Dunstan denies looking at them, and Boy insists... (full context)
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Dunstan asks Boy if he has ever heard the story of Gyges and Candaules, and Boy says he... (full context)
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Dunstan tells Boy about his impeding publication, and Boy seems pleased to know he has a friend who... (full context)
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Dunstan’s success makes him all the more attractive to Boy, who invites him over even more frequently. Dunstan does his best to be a good... (full context)
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Dunstan thinks Boy’s desire for sex sounds exhausting, and he is glad he possesses no similar inclinations. He... (full context)
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On Christmas, Leola discovers a note in Boy’s coat pocket from one of his mistresses. She is distraught and confronts him, but Boy... (full context)
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...He disposes of the note and they never speak of it. They try to reach Boy at his business address in Montreal but cannot find him. The children suffer more than... (full context)
Part 5: “Liesl”
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Dunstan passes quickly over WWII. Boy is made even richer and more famous by this war. In 1942, Leola dies. She... (full context)
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...a “matter of duty.” Everyone in Deptford mourns the end of a “great romance” between Boy and Leola. But things move on fairly quickly. The Headmaster of Colborne College leaves his... (full context)
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Boy says he hopes Dunstan will stay on as a teacher, and Dunstan agrees, but demands... (full context)
Part 6: “The Soirée of Illusions”
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...stupidity is to blame for Mrs. Dempster’s renewed misery. In the midst of this loss, Boy marries a woman who does not approve of Dunstan. Boy has become interested in a... (full context)
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Though Denyse seems masculine to Boy in her professional dealings, she is feminine in her love for him, and they are... (full context)
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...finds interests of this sort repulsive, and Dunstan is no longer invited into their home. Boy smoothes things over by occasionally asking Dunstan to lunch with him at his club. During... (full context)
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To Dunstan’s surprise, Boy crumples under this criticism and reveals that he has been severely unhappy, even in the... (full context)
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4. A year after Boy and Denyse are married, Mrs. Dempster dies. Dunstan thinks his disclosure of Paul’s existence broke... (full context)
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6. Boy Staunton is found dead in his Cadillac in 1968, which had been driven into the... (full context)
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7. Just Prior to Boy’s Death, In 1968, Magnus Eisengrim travels to Canada. He performs at Colborne College, and after... (full context)
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Boy tries to make fun of Dunstan’s bookish living quarters, but Eisengrim remarks that he likes... (full context)
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He then talks about his childhood in Deptford, and mentions that Boy used to call his mother a whore and taunt him in school. Boy cannot remember... (full context)
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Trying to lighten the mood, Boy asks Paul where he got his stage name. Paul responds that it means “wolf,” and... (full context)
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...and discloses the story of the snowball, and his own role in Mary Dempster’s misfortune. Boy says Dunstan has made a big deal out of nothing, that the difference between them... (full context)
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Boy is fed up—he accuses Dunstan of trying to humiliate him in front of Paul, and... (full context)
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8. The Saturday following Boy’s death, Dunstan goes to see Paul’s show, now called The Soirée of Illusions. During the... (full context)