Fifth Business Study Guide

Part V – Liesl

As World War II hit the nation, Boy Staunton became an international industrialist. His cheaply produced vitamin enriched foods kept the Canadian and Allied troops from being hungry. His estrangement from his wife and son increases over time. David Staunton, now a twelve-year-old boy, boards as a student at Colborne College, where Dunstan doesn’t mind watching over him.

Two years later, in 1942, Leola Staunton perishes. Her cause of death was pneumonia, but Dunstan finds it odd that Leola would leave her windows open on a cold winter afternoon. When he informs David about his mother’s passing, the boy only replied that his mother is better off now. Boy was in England during her death and was unable (or rather, unwilling) to attend his wife’s funeral. He ends up entrusting Dunstan with arranging the funeral. Milo the barber attends the funeral and makes a remark about how heartbroken Dunstan must be with the death of his first love—but in reality, Dunstant feels nothing for Leola anymore.

By the end of 1942, Boy returns and informs Dunstan that he won’t become headmaster despite all his efforts as a teacher and acting headmaster at Colborne College. Despite the support from Boy, the board pushes to hire a married man with much more interesting hobbies compared to Dunstan’s fascination for saints. Dunstan gets hurt with their preference, but agrees to this, so long as they make it seem as if Dunstan turned down the job to save face. Boy also readily agrees to Dunstan’s condition of six months of paid leave so he can visit shrines in Central America.

In Central America, he stumbles upon the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. As he is travelling Central America, he discovers a magic show. He enjoys magic and reserves for a seat. However, he wasn’t ready for what he witnessed. He becomes enchanted with the magic, as it was mixed with the elements of the artistic and sensual. The magician was named Magnus Elsengrim, but Dunstan recognized him to be Paul Dempster.

Dunstan is asked to come back stage and finds a man-like woman. He discovers that the bearded man-woman is named Liesl and is Elsengrim’s business partner. Magnus Elsengrim/Paul is dismissive of Dunstan, but Liesl invites Dunstan out to lunch the next day. Prior to leaving, Paul thanks Dunstan for the “loan” that he got from his wallet. When Dunstan returned to his hotel room, he discovers his old wallet in his pocket filled with the money that was originally lost along with it plus interest. During lunch the next day, Dunstan sees more beyond Liesl’s face. He finds her an intellectual and is very savvy when it comes to managing a business. It turns out that she’s a hagiography student and has read all of Dunstan’s books about sainthood. Liesl wants Dunstan to write an autobiography about Magnus Elsengrim, providing him with as much artistic license as he likes. Dunstan couldn’t let this opportunity pass and decides to join Magnus’ carnival of magic. Around this time, he experiences an existential rebirth. Liesl becomes his personal therapist and helps him get past the darker aspects of his life, the ones that he has been running from. When Liesl confronted him about his sexual attraction towards Faustina, a young showgirl, Liesl attempts to rape Dunstan. The sexually charged brawl left the two of them all bloodied up. Dunstan cares for Liesl wounds and she reveals what he’s really suffering from: “Revenge of the unlived life.” She tells him that he’s “The Fifth Business.”

Notes: All the myths in Dunstan’s life finally takes form, thanks to Liesl’s involvement.

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Celis, Christine. "TheBestNotes on Fifth Business". . 09 May 2017