Fifth Business Study Guide

Part VI – The Soiree of Illusions

Dunstan writes Magnus Elsengrim’s autobiography with a pseudonym. He mixes different elements of magical, sexual, and fantastical to create a masterpiece that readers will be addicted to. Magnus Elsengrim becomes an overnight star. Before Dunstan leaves the carnival, he ends up convincing Magnus to contribute something for his mother’s upkeep. The money that he got from Magnus allowed him to move Mary Dempster into a private facility. Dunstan pays her a visit and was pleased to know that was doing well. Still having no idea about her past, Mary is happy and is also able to help out with other patients as well. Dunstan accidentally tells her something about Paul. In Mary’s mind, Paul is still a young boy and Dunstan’s story about Paul made all of the past come back to her. Despite his efforts to convince her that her son is now an adult, Mary still tells Dunstan that her son is still a young boy. She thinks that Dunstan is hiding her son from him. She becomes violent and tries to scratch his eyes out. Because of the revelation, Dunstan is banned from seeing Mary. As a result, Mary’s mental and physical wellness took a turn for the worse. Around the same time, Boy Staunton finds himself a new bride. Her name is Denyse Hornick and is the polar opposite of Leola. She is politically powerful and a feminist. She knows how to take control of Boy when it’s needed. Their wedding is worthy of royalty, but Boy’s children, David and Caroline, dislikes their new stepmother and chose to not attend the ceremonies. Denyse feels angry towards Dunstan, because she thinks his fascination with the Catholic Church (a patriarchal organization) is offensive to females. She set her eyes on getting Boy appointed as Lieutenant Governor. It’s quite a challenge to make the public warm-up to someone like Boy Staunton, a boastful rich industrialist, but Denyse is up to it. Boy adores the connection that the position has with the royals.


As Dunstan and Boy reach their sexagenarian ages, they revert back to their original childhood roles: Dunstan enjoys taunting Boy with his cleverness and Boy loves throwing metaphorical snowballs at him. A year after Boy’s wedding to Denyse, Mrs. Dempster dies of a heart attack. Dunstan cries for his saint’s death.

From here on, Dunstan narrates about how Boy Staunton died. His water logged Cadillac was pulled up from the Toronto Harbour. His body was sitting stiffly in the driver’s seat, his hand steal clutching the driver’s wheel with a granite rock as big as an egg found inside his mouth. Denyse makes it a point that her husband’s funeral was a grand affair. She asked Dunstan to write a book about Boy, something that made his stomach turn. Dunstan admitted that he was thankful that he got a heart attack, as it excused him from writing the book.

Dunstan finally revealed the real reason behind Boy’s death. In his letter, he tells the headmaster to keep this in strict confidence. Magnus Elsengrim is now enjoying his status as a world-famous magician. He took two weeks to visit Toronto and conduct some shows. Dunstan spends a lot of time with him and his crew, until Elsengrim convinces Dunstan to let him do a show involving hypnotism at Colborne College. After the show, he introduces the magician to Boy. Boy doesn’t recognize Magnus as Paul Dempster, the boy that he used to torment. Their conversation was respectful enough at the beginning, until things started to become tense. The magician tells him that he is indeed Paul Dempster. Elsengrim reminds Boy that he used to taunt his mother a “whore” from outside their home. Boy denies these claims and tells the magician that he has no recollection of any of it. He also adds that the details of his past are useless to him.



Dunstan then interjects about the story of the snowball that Boy threw and hit Mary Dempster with. Dunstan becomes content with playing the role of “The Fifth Business.” He brings out a granite stone that was encased inside the snowball Boy threw. Dunstan tells Boy to recognize that part of his past. In turn, Boy accuses him of being ungrateful of all the financial advise that he provided Dunstan for free. Dunstan also tells Boy about his treatment of Leola and how obsessed he is about being above everyone else. To resolve the argument, Magnus Elsengrim demands Boy to drive him home as repayment to his cruelty in the past. The next day, Dunstan notices that the granite stone that he uses as a paperweight has gone missing.

After Boy’s funeral, Dunstan visits Magnus Elsengrim’s magic show. Dunstan awaits the Brazen Head’s introduction. A distraught audience member, David Staunton, demands to know the killer of his father. The Brazen Head provided him with cryptic answers about women that David know and did not know. He adds that Boy Staunton was killed “By the fifth, who was the keeper of his conscience and keeper of the stone. “

At the same moment of the revelation, Dunstan experiences a heart attack. He recovers and receives a letter from Liesl, inviting him to join their troop in Switzerland. Dunstan tells the headmaster that his story is now finished and wrote a postscript to his letter: “Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, 1970.”

Notes: Dunstan’s role as The Fifth Business is given clarity during the final chapter, tying all loose ends together.

Cite this page:

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