In the novel The Remains of the Day there is a recurring theme of dignity and respect. There is the dignity of Stevens and the people that he meets along the way on his journey across the English countryside. He also comes to the realization that his former lord may not have been the man he thought he was. The most profound form of dignity is that of Stevens, in being an English Butler he has been raised to do his job in one way. He is supposed to be the proper gentleman never letting anything faze him or distract him from his work. When he does his job he feels dignified because it's all he has ever known how to do. "Dignity, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is "a composed and serious manner/style, the state of being worthy of honor or respect"."
Stevens by this definition is a very dignified person. His manner is always that of a serious style. So much so that he doesn't even know how to banter with the people that he meets as he travels the English countryside. He has no human contact with any of the people that he has known in his life. He does his job so dutifully that he isn't even by his father's side as his father is slowly dying in his upstairs room. He stays at his post as his father instructed him all through his youth. At this point in the novel you get the feeling that Stevens has no human feelings at all. He's only about his duties that have been put forth to him in his position as the head butler of the household. He finds that in his duties he cannot become emotionally attached to anything around him. This includes Ms. Kenton, who he has feelings for but cant do anything about them because of his raising. His position forbids him to ever be with Ms. Kenton, at least in his mind.
Stevens by the "rules" dictated to him by his father is supposed to be a hollow shell. He's not supposed to banter with the butlers from other households while in the back rooms. He's not allowed to be friendly and open with his household staff because he'll lose some of their respect if he is. These ideas were ingrained in Stevens from the time that he can remember. His duties as a butler have cut him off from all human contact, even the simplest thing as falling in love. He has feelings for Ms. Kenton but he's not allowed to act upon them because of his duties to his lordship. He can be somewhat chummy with these people but at all times he is to be distant because he has to make the decisions. His only service in life is supposed to be that service to his lord of the household that he holds a position in. That means there isn't any room for actually getting to know anybody. He's even supposed to remain aloof to the lord of the house because the lords before Mr. Farrady never associated with their butlers. So, when Farrady starts talking to him as an equal of sorts he is taken aback. He views Farrady's actions with disdain because he's not accustomed to it.
Stevens believes that he has done a great service to humanity by serving a "great" gentleman. As he takes his journey across the countryside he looks back on his service to his lord, and realizes his lord may have not been that "great". He starts to see things in his memories that he ignored because of his station as a butler. He also starts to look at himself as he realizes that his lord may not have been as "great" as he always believe him to be. Stevens' sense of self relies on the "greatness" that he placed upon Lord Darlington because all great butlers come from great lords. If his lord wasn't truly a great man then how could he be considered a great butler. This is what Stevens has strived for his entire life was to be a great butler. He envisions himself as being a hero of sorts because of his duties to the household and his lord. His memories though are starting to open his eyes to the truth of what really happened in those last years at Darlington Manor underneath Lord Darlington.
As he remembers more and more about the years at Darlington Manor under...
Bibliography: 1. http://www.123helpme.com/assets/3331.html
2. Dr. Gregory O 'Dea UC Foundation Associate Professor of English, UTC
3. Movie review by Roger Ebert, http://www.suntimes.com/ebert/ebert_reviews/1993/11/887689.html
Date of publication: 11/05/1993
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