By Kazuo Ishiguro
The passage in " The Remains of the Day", by Kazuo Ishiguro, which best represents the theme of the story is found on page 116, last paragraph of the page. This passage is one of the final discussions Mr. Stevens has with respect to his trying to determine what makes a great butler. However, it is only one out of many possible examples. In this specific instance he is saying that one can be a great butler only if he works for an employer who addresses moral issues.
Mr. Stevens is very interested in trying to decide two things. Firstly, he wants to know the exact qualities that make a butler the best at his profession. Not only does he say what he did in the passage, that the employer must be moral, but he also focuses on direct aspects of what the butler does. Examples of this are his emphasis on creating a good work sheet, and on doing a totally errorless job.
Mr. Stevens later discusses that, contrary to what was fashionable at the time, a butler should not have an opinion on current events. He states that while other butlers work very hard at learning useless facts, it is more important to spend that time working on the house. This is further shown through a story Mr. Stevens tells where he lets himself be embarrassed in order to maintain this philosophy.
He is asked by a drunken guest of Lord Darlington some questions pertaining to current events. Rather than attempt to make up an answer, Mr. Stevens instead gets embarrassed by saying that he doesn't know. This story illustrates that a truly great butler must know his place in the house and know that he was not hired because of his political opinions.
The next thing that Mr. Stevens is trying to decide comes as a result of his new American employer. This employer enjoys engaging in playful bantering, an activity which Mr. Stevens has never done before. During his road trip he tries to decide if he should participate in this bantering, and how he should do this. This is incorporated into the theme of being a great butler. For while it is not part of the traditional butler's job description, there is no reason why bantering should not be included in order to improve the employer-butler relationship.
The theme of this book is really Mr. Stevens trying to decide if he succeeded at his job. During this trip, he goes through various episodes of his life and compares himself to the people that he considers to be the best butlers of the time. While he often says that he was successful in these specific episodes, he never says that he could be among the ranks of those he calls the greatest of his time. And until he is able to do this, Mr. Stevens feels that he must continue to improve himself, which is why he decides at the end to keep working on bantering and other new things.