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Religious Figures In 5th Business

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Religious Practitioner's Assignment

Lea Zimmerman

1. Amasa Dempster

From his professional career to his personal life, religion consumes every aspect of Amasa Dempster's life. He is known by the citizens of Deptford to impose his view of religion on everyone and everything he encounters. When Mary was sick in bed after Paul's birth his actions reveal that his feelings and religious beliefs often overtake reason. He knelt on the floor next to the bed where Mary laid and prayed feverously that it would be easier for Paul if his mother were to accompany him to heaven. Mrs. Dempster seemed unaffected by his ignorance and narrow-mindedness, but these character traits were large factors in his ostracism from the community. Amasa had tendency to drop at any time and pray with "intense passion"; Dunstan thought this was indecent and found him spooky because he was believed to walk with god.

After discovering that he had been teaching Paul about cards, illusions, and worst of all, the Catholic saints, Amasa forbade Dunstan to talk to Paul or enter their home. Dunstan was angry because he demeaned his talents to mere cheating and gambling. He also seemed to hold a grudge towards Amasa because of the way he treated Mary.

I think that Amasa Dempster is the strangest character in the novel. His actions prove he is neither intelligent nor articulate, further confirming the contrast of Baptist feeling to Presbyterian good sense. I agree with Dunstan that his sporadic praying is spooky, but I also think that his disposition is generally eerie; he is quiet and soft spoken, but every experience that the reader is exposed to conveys his creepy nature. The fact that his wife is so much younger than himself makes him seem that much creepier. He acts as though he loves his wife; even when he found her in the pits with a tramp he did not question her, only helped her. Tying your wife to a rope is inhumane and appalling, and makes her seem like a domestic animal instead of his life partner. I understand his anger towards Dunstan regarding the card playing, it is against his religious morals, but Dunstan was still a young child and he talked to him as if he should have known better. I find his character very disturbing.

2. Donald Phelps

Donald Phelps is the Presbyterian minister in Deptford who replaced Andrew Bowyer. From Dunstan's few encounters with Phelps it is noticeable that he is a much more contemporary minister than Amasa Dempster. After Willie is "raise from the dead" he explains to Dunstan that the age of miracles is over and that it is blasphemous to think that anyone has that power to raise someone from the dead. Dunstan likes Phelps because he feels that his opinion had good intentions opposed to Dr. McCausland who spoke to Dunstan as if he were deranged.

Donald Phelps seems to have a good heart and is sensitive to Dunstan's feelings even though he is such a young boy. I think that Phelps and Dempster are good representations of their different sects of Christianity. I know very little differences, but this novel has significantly expanded my knowledge. Dunstan constantly refers to the good sense of Presbyterians, and I think that this is apparent in Phelps' character.

3. Father Reagan

Dunstan Ramsay was raised as a Presbyterian, but he talks to Father Reagan, the Roman Catholic priest in Deptford, because of guilt that Dr. McCausland reheated. He wanted to talk to someone in Deptford who was not wholly of it, and Reagan gave Dunstan this external but still pertinent advice. They discussed Mary Dempster, and he makes it obvious that he should not dwell on the idea of her being a saint. He thinks that it is pointless for Dunstan to continue his fanaticism or he may become just as mad as Mrs. Dempster. He thinks that it is ridiculous that Dunstan believes Mary Dempster is a saint because she cannot tell right from wrong, and that he should be content with the knowledge he has. He introduces the idea of a "fool-saint" to Dunstan, and says that that is the closest thing to a real saint she could be. Reagan reflects on Dunstan's obsession with the saints and states that he must look at Catholicism, the origin of the saints. He believes that Dunstan will draw back, because religion is no "flirty lady".

Unlike Phelps or Dempster, Reagan did not show the reader any insight to the Roman Catholic religion. I have always found it to be the strangest of the Christian branches, and Reagan did not help me expand my knowledge. Regan was important to Dunstan because this discussion was the first release of his feelings and opinions about Mary Dempster's sainthood. As we learn from Lisel he is a great secret keeper and talking about his feelings is important.

4. Joel Surgeoner

Dunstan's first encounter with Mr. Surgeoner is in the pits in Deptford with Mary Dempster. He is the tramp responsible for Mary Dempster's humiliation in Deptford. It is not until later when he is a teacher that Dunstan meets Surgeoner again, but this time he is a reformed man. He now runs an organization called Life Line that helps instill faith in other tramps and needy persons. After a talk at the school where Dustan teaches, he decides to visit the Life Line. Dunstan listens to a speech and immediately takes him for a pious liar. They talk about a story that Mr. Surgeoner presented at his speech at the Life Line and Dunstan picks it out as a lie. Surgeoner explains that the spirit of the story is



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