"The Remains of the Day", winner of the 1989 Booker Prize, was written by Kazuo Ishiguro in 1989. Ishiguro had a typical English education with an immersion in Japanese culture. His fictions are remarked as “deal[ing] broadly with themes of self-deception, truth and the clash of public and private images of his characters”. In the Remains of the Day, he gives an eloquent dissection on the narrowed life of a stoic English butler who has spent thirty years in service at Darlington Hall, devoting everything in the pursuit of what he believes to be “great” and his unemotional reactions to the emotional world around him which ultimately come to regret and disillusionment. As Stevens travels through the English countryside, he recalls the past glories of Darlington Hall when Lord Darlington played host to the world leaders. He gradually revealed not only his own genuine character but also Lord Darlington’s misguided attempts to alter the course of history as well as the restrained love between Miss Kenton, the ex-housekeeper of Darlington Hall and him. Ishiguro makes insightful observations on the behaviors and thoughts of Stevens whose life is all about the small society- the Darlington Hall. This essay will explore a few of these observations by analyzing the concerning extracts and contexts. The extract I chose is concerning Miss Kenton’s receiving the news that her aunt, her only living relative, has passed away. She tells Stevens the news, then asks for a few moments alone and goes into her room. At first Stevens realizes that he has omitted to offer Miss Kenton his “condolences”. However, although he wishes to compensate his error, his over elaborate sense indicates him that she is very possibly crying on the other side of the door. He hesitates and finally decides not going back because of fear of interrupting “her private grief”. When Miss Kenton comes out of her room in the afternoon, he only asks if everything is in order and points out a few mistakes that the new maids have made. Miss Kenton responds by saying that she will check over the maids' work and then excuses herself from the room (p.185-189).
Like many other encounters with Miss Kenton, Stevens acts in a stupid manner here when she suffers from a huge pain and needs love, caring or a few words of comfort at least. He is so inflexible that it is too hard for him to offer her any words of consolation. The only things he can ever speak to Miss Kenton about are the household affairs: “…I do feel you might be a little complacent as regards new arrivals…” (p187), seemingly this is the only way he knows how to interact. The contradiction between his will to give her comfort and his not being good at express it properly leads him to an “irredeemable” situation. At first, he just “stand[s] there hovering in the corridor for some moment”, hesitating when to express his sympathy. However, when he later saw Miss Kenton, though he “had been preoccupied for hours with the matter of Miss Kenton’s sorrow” and worried about how he should do to “ease her burden a little”(p186), he struggled so much but finally can say no word expressing his grief and sympathy but all about “crockery” and other household trifles, his ordinary way of interact: equivocation. Struggles make him at a loss and do something anomalous.
Actually, Stevens is always struggling with his relationships with Miss Kenton, his father and his employer, but what he struggles most is the endeavor to be a great butler. He pushes himself to work as hard as he can physically and mentally always keeps it in mind what makes a butler great. This perfectionist sacrifices all normal human encounters in order to be a genuinely “professional” butler. It is true that Stevens’s manner of speech and understanding of society, which is perfectly achieved by his broad reading of the book collections in Darlington Hall and opportunities to be present at upper class meetings, lead the townsfolk he met during his trip to...
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