The Remains of the Day - Digni

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  • Topic: Novel
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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The novel contains a recurring theme of dignity. This theme is stated and restated throughout the novel. Define dignity and then consider the author's intention and conclude with your own explanation of the quality of dignity.

Portfolio Essay: The Remains of the Day

Dignity, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is "a composed and serious manner/style, the state of being worthy of honour or respect". In the novel, dignity is exoterically found in the form of proper gentlemen, as well as butlers who allow nothing to distract or faze them from doing their duty.

What about the everyday definition in the modern world. This dignity today is rarely encountered other than in the higher levels of old fashioned society, politics and perhaps serious business matters.

With all our upbringing, culture and modernisation, few have retained what was known as the dignity of even a half century ago. No one has the time any more to nurture and develop their dignity to a reasonable potential, as they find increasingly less and less reason to do so, relying instead on pure wit, instinct and professional tact.

What I think is meant when one talks about dignity is the following. Take an imaginary case. You are confronted with a difficult or abnormal situation, yet you can maintain the same level of thinking and can attempt to deal with the situation. Or, you are forced to respond to a matter, and there is the possibility of your letting it get out of hand, but you control yourself and respond instead while focused and maintaining a civilised manner. That is dignity.

As is evident throughout the novel, it is a quality inherent in all people. The author's intention and a below the surface view become clear: during his car journey. Mr Stevens becomes acutely aware of the dignity present in the people he meets, for example the family who takes him in when he runs out of gas. These are hardly the upper crust folk, yet their demeanour warms him and places them all on an...
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