The life of Dunstan Ramsay is the backdrop and the thread connecting countless subplots and themes, but as his very evident passion for hagiology sets him out to discover the difference between materialism and spirituality, the actual importance of women is brought about in the novel by his interactions since childhood onwards and we see how these women mould, scar and set him free. The role of women in society is analyzed in the story from the point of view of a male narrator. Dunstan Ramsay had a number of women pass throughout his life. Each of the women played an important role in his life.
His mother caused him to become isolated and distant from women. Mary Dempster took away Dunstan’s childhood because of the guilt he felt for her simplicity, and she also was the only woman he truly loved. Leola caused Dunstan to experience jealousy and pity. Diana is also controlling and manipulative, like Dunstan’s mother, which is why he leaves her. Through Diana, the reader sees how much Dunstan’s mother has affected his life with women. Liesl made Dunstan realize that he felt no emotion, and she caused him to feel it again.
She brought him out of the isolation his mother put him in.All of these women played an important role in Dunstan’s spiritual and emotional development. Dunstan's mother's influence in his life lies parallel to that of Calvinist Protestantism. Like the religion, Fiona Ramsay is restrictive and has a certain element of fire and brimstone about her, demonstrated when she chases Dunstan through the house intent on delivering righteous punishment. As Protestantism stands against Dunstan's interests in saints and magic, Mrs. Ramsay restricts his contact with Mary Dempster - later identified as a possible saint.
As Dunstan is relatively unattached to the Protestant church, he is relatively unattached to his mother. The feeling he describes upon hearing word of her death was one of relief, not one of loss. Dunstan’s mother, a tough Scots woman, led him through his life. She placed herself above God in his life.
He began his life liking his mother, but when she whipped him for dropping some eggs when he was performing magic, he lost all respect for her and came to thoroughly dislike her. She was very controlling and had bad mood swings. Because of her controlling and manipulative ways, Dunstan became isolated from and untrusting of her.In contrast, when we interpret Mary Dempster along Jungian archetypes, we see her in various roles and see her as a dynamic character who changes as much as Dunny does in the novel since she is arguably, one of the active agents for change in Dunny's life. Firstly, she is the mother figure, bringing forth a weakened child into the world.
She then becomes a type of a savior figure, not only because of her appearance to Dunny as he crawls through the mud in World War I, but also because she gave of herself unselfishly to the drifter in the grave pit.After this incident she is not crazy, but distracted. She becomes the Jungian outcast in the novel since the small town mentality cannot accept why she would ever prostate herself to a drifter. Mary becomes other things through the novel. This is just a start.
The point is that Mary Dempster cannot be dealt with so tritely. She fills a complicated function in the novel so we should have many opinions about her. Earlier, in Ramsay’s life, Leola Cruishank was his first crush. He began courting her when his friend and her boyfriend, Percy Boyd Staunton went away for school.
They were in love, and she wrote to him when he went away to the war. They planned to marry when he returned home. When he returned though, she was engaged to Percy. When Dunstan returned from Europe, he had discovered both that he did not love Leola, and was worried about how he was going to tell her he was no longer interested, and this worked out perfectly for Ramsay; but he was however, upset that his archenemy got to her, as if it were a competition he had lost.
Leola remained a friend, and Protestantism as well as a psychological influence on Dunstan.Later on in the story, Dunstan began to pity Leola, as she began to be more and more just an article that Percy, now called Boy, had collected over the years. Dunstan's affair with Diana Marfleet does culminate in his rebirth and renaming. His time with Diana matures him and adds to his scope of experience and breadth of understanding. The experience is comparable to the influence of Dunstan's excessive Bible reading during the war; he forms opinions and gains understanding. However, in the end, he does not remain a practicing Christian - just as he does not marry Diana Marfleet.
Eventually, at the “Soiree d’Illusion”, Paul’s magic performance where Liesl was co-owner and mastermind behind the show, Dunstan was repulsed by her looks, yet amazed by her thoughts and personality. When she came to his hotel room, with the intention to make love with him, he was disgusted and physically fought her. She later returned to his room, and he gave in to her seducing, later to believe that she was his devil, and that you need to compromise with your devil in order to not be overcome by it.When they fought, it was if it was the first time that Dunstan had felt anything physically and it triggered emotion in him for the first time since childhood that wasn’t guilt. He became aware of his emotions, and the fact that for so long he had felt none. Prior to his affection to Liesl, Dunstan's fascination with Faustina during his middle aged years had simply taught him a lesson about women, that he cannot be Faustina's knight in shining amour, as does not share her youth or her enthusiasm for her religion, hence resigns himself to the un-attainability of belonging to either situation.
Many years and a book later, he finds replacement for the woman in Liesl and their association is established. He eventually comes to terms with himself, and so can make some measure of commitment to a woman and a form of religious spirituality, though the ties remain rather tenuous. The single constant in Dunstan's life is the combination of saints and Mary Dempster. From his early youth to his old age, Dunstan is keenly interested in saints, and feels responsibility and love towards Mary. The connection between the two becomes especially interesting because of Dunstan's conviction that Mary herself is a saint.