Kazuo Isiguro’s piece, The Remains of the Day, is a novel describing the end of a sophisticated and well-spoken butler’s career and the self-reflection he experiences whilst his journey through England. As he reminisces on the past experiences he’s had as a dignified butler at Darlington Hall, Stevens exposes his inner thoughts, feelings, and ultimately, who he is as an individual. In addition, there is an assortment of passages throughout the story in which Stevens’s recollections of interactions between himself and other characters show subtle attributes of Stevens’s personality and mirroring images of his past which has indisputably shaped him into the individual that has become. The passage that lies between pages 145 and 149 is a prime example of this.
Within this passage, Stevens reflects upon a time in which Lord Darlington had ordered the dismissal of two maids that worked at Darlington Hall solely on the basis that they were Jewish. Shortly after being informed of the news, Mrs. Kenton, the head housekeeper of Darlington Hall, was outraged. Stevens by contrast seemed calm, unsympathetic, and rather understanding of the situation. Stevens’s dispassionate response to the situation was extremely significant in that it mirrored many of his responsiveness to a myriad of additional circumstances throughout the novel, highlighted the obvious consequences of his past relationship with his father, and disclosed his extreme dependence on his duty as a butler during emotional or controversial events, which is of course, another theme that is interwoven throughout the occurrences in the novel.
Although Stevens’s reaction, or rather lack there of, to Lord Darlington’s request to dismiss the two Jewish maids may have been surprising at first, such a response to the circumstances should have been moderately anticipated due to the previous responses Stevens recalls experiencing in an array of other ‘incidents.’ For instance, when Stevens recollects a conversation between himself and his new superior, Mr. Farraday, in which Mr. Farraday misunderstands what Stevens had thought to be a simple professional meet with Mrs. Kenton and mistakes it for being a whimsical, romantic journey to see his love, Stevens barely reacts at all. He claims it would be best not rebuke the notion and to simply “play along” with the idea.
He does not stand up and say the truth. He lets Mr. Farraday believe want he wanted to believe. Additionally, when Stevens recalls his superior, Mr. Farraday, banter for the first time. His reaction was saying to himself that “bantering is not a duty I feel I could ever discharge with enthusiasm” (Ishiguro 16). Each of these occurrences reveals the bleak unresponsive personality that Stevens has. The contrast especially, between Mrs. Kempton and Stevens’s in the passage mentioned previously enhances the image of the abnormality in Stevens’s response. Mrs. Kempton reacted rationally and what most would consider normally in that she was outraged with the decision to dismiss to women from their jobs because of their race. Stevens, however, was unresponsive and lacked sympathy for the maids. “His Lordship has made a decision and there is nothing for you and I to debate over,” he claims calmly. The unemotional and impartial manner in which he chooses to deal with situations is quite noteworthy in that this attribute is the foundation of the majority of his decisions and statements throughout the book. Furthermore, it is a repeating motif that illustrates the detached standpoint from which he views life. This view is of course, one of many consequences that mirror his past relationship with his father.
The relationship between Stevens and his father is certainly mirrored in the passage of which I speak. Whether it be the cold and nearly heartless tone of the statements that Stevens relays to Mrs. Kempton, or the bleak void of sentiment that haunt the words in the text describing his inner thoughts, Stevens’ strictly professional views of the situations that he encounters divulge the consequences of the relationship between himself and his father. Although briefly alluded to towards the beginning of the novel, the significant occurrences exposing the void within Sevens’ relationship with his father occur after this passage. The most significant occurrence between the two characters after this passage is the moment in which Stevens talks to his father on his (his father’s) death bed. Simply put, his response to his father’s position is essentially no response at all.
He acts as though all is well and calls his dad “Father” (Ishiuro 97). The manner in which Stevens and the author choose to refer to Stevens’s father is especially interesting because “Father is spelled with a capital “F,” and thus, seemingly made to resemble the utmost formal relationship between the two. Stevens’ father’s reaction to the situation is similar in that he kept referring to Stevens as “son,” almost intentionally assuring that the conversation was kept formal and void of what he would consider unnecessary emotion. This empty relationship is mirrored in the passage of which I speak in that Stevens’ empty tone of communication that is void of all emotions and sentiment is an attribute that was clearly developed in him via the empty, emotionless relationship he had in the past with his father. The relationship between Stevens’s and his “Father” is also the root from which another attribute stems from within Stevens’s persona. This attribute is Stevens’ dependence on his “duty” as a butler when the circumstances around him become difficult.
As Stevens spoke of how surprised he was by Mrs. Kenton’s reaction to Lord Darlington’s decision, he quickly reverted to the environment he was more comfortable with–his duty. Once aware of her quickly building emotion, Stevens urged that they return to the mindsets of their “professional duties” (Ishiuro 149) and not to mix sentimental thoughts with the workplace. His opinion was strictly professional. His reaction was emotionless. His response was robotic. This unusual manner in which Stevens dealt with the situation shows his reliance on his duty as a butler to detach himself from all emotional situations and circumstances.
This is further proven later in the novel when Mrs. Kempton is crying in the window because of a death in her family and he does nothing. His plain rejection of the notion that he should be emotional is yet another motif that further expands the breadth of the characterization of his character throughout the story. This reliance on one’s duty is also yet another mirroring image of Stevens’s father. Stevens even states that “My father, as I say, came out of a generation mercifully free of such confusions…I would maintain that for all his limited command…that ‘dignity in keeping with his position,’ as the Hayes society puts it” (Ishiuro 35). Subsequently, it is evident that this importance of occupation and significance of the duty as a butler was passed down from Stevens’s father to Stevens. Such an attribute is vital to Stevens’ character because his entire life revolves around his duty as a butler.
That said, the development and Characterization Stevens’ character within this passage is critical in coalesce of major themes motifs and ideas that define Stevens’ as an individual. Within this passage, mirroring images of Stevens’s past relationship with his father, emotionless statements and empty responses to the situation at hand, as well as evident reliance on his job and duty as a butler are all facets showing intriguing characteristics of Stevens that are brought to the forefront of the story. This of course, enables the reader to grasp an enhanced representation of who Stevens really is and further comprehend why he does the thins he does and makes the choices he makes.