((This is Yrs Trly's first attempt at literary criticism. Please be gentle
. Also, if the need ever arises to blatantly rip this off, by all means, feel free to do so.))
DISCLAIMER: This paper is in no way impartial concerning matters of religion. The views expressed are quite biased, and singular to the Author. It is requested that those with weak constitutions and/or strong faithplease not read this analysis for fear of corruption/moral outrage. In fact, due to the base nature of the subject, this paper should not be read by anyone. However, if the Gentle Reader has chosen to disregard these warnings, then read on...
Myth: "a traditional story, presented as historical, often purporting to explain some natural phenomenon, such as the creation of life, and expresive of the character of a people..."
Myth: "a false belief or opinion."
Myth: the faith or beliefs belonging to someone else.
Religion: your personal faith of choice/set of beliefs.
The line between religion and myth, as with most matters concerning belief, is perilously fine. Each tends to absorb the other, adapting, changing to fit what is needed. Eventually, the two become interchangeable- the difference becomes not one of subject, but of popularity. Rival gods become demons, epic heroes become saints, but their substance is still the same. Most commonly, such a shift is imperceptible- by popular choice, or rather, by popular ignorance. To miss the shift in The Fifth Business, however, would be like failing to notice the large brick that has just hit you repeatedly over the head. As the novel progresses, the intermingling of religion with myth fair pervades the storyline; while its surface may be that of a supposed autobiography, the true basis of The Fifth Business is belief.
As the story begins, it weaves itself around the concept of religion. The five churches of Deptford compete amongst themselves for the souls of the faithful. Each person adheres rigidly to their doctrine of choice- the faith of childhood. As the three main characters, Dunstan, Boy, and Paul, grow, however, they abandon precept to find faiths more wholly their own. Boy, for example, finds his opiate in the fashionable choice. In the shift from Presbyterian to Anglican to atheist, he tacks his sails of faith to suit the winds of popular opinion. It is interesting to note that every time, he appears to believe fully and firmly in the cannon of the moment- leading one to question just exactly in what does Boy Staunton believe? What truly defines him, for religion is not just belief. It is also a backround; the character of Mrs. Dempster is forever associated in the reader's mind with "the Baptist minister's wife," as well as
Where one finds religion, myth must soon follow. Putting aside for the moment the belief in all religion as myth, the two, in all honesty, cannot be separate and considered complete. The tenets of our faith are the results of the stories of our past, be they Atlas Shrugged or the Book of Job. First as a child, then later again as a man, Dunstan realizes the connection. At the tender age of fourteen, the similarities between the Bible and 1001 Arabian Nights are apparent. Tales of the saints are just that: merely tales; St. Sebastian goes from holy martyr to human pincushion, and fascination ensues. Ramsay spends his life tracking down the origins of the mythos of the saints, discovering which stories and which histories were used to create them. Through this, we are enabled to see that myth permeates all that touches upon it, even and, in fact, especially religion.
As it begins, so must it end- but keep in mind the purpose behind this all. The angels we call on to help us may be the gods of years long gone, but that call means nothing without belief behind it. If, like Boy, we put our faith in the God of the moment, where does it leave the myths of the past? The answer to that, of course, lies in another country.
Post Script: the Author wishes to apologize for all the puns, similes, metaphors, and allusions committed in this paper. She promises to be good next time.