Remains Of The Day


The novel "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro is a
novel of self reflection. The main character of the novel,
Mr. Stevens, is at the end of his life and at the end of
his career. He has the uncommon opportunity to go on a road
trip to visit a former acquaintance. The road trip leaves
him with plenty of time to think and reminisce. Mr. Stevens
led the life of a successful butler of a distinguished
household. His memories show him that the life that he
though was so fulfilling turned out to be a bitter
disappointment. At the completion of his journey, Mr.
Stevens is left pondering about his entire life and what he
would like to do with the rest of it. 

At the end of his trip, before returning to his home, Mr.
Stevens decides that his friend's advice made sense and
that there was no point in being remorseful about one's
past. " Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice
that I should cease looking back so much, that I should
adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of
the remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in
forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives had
not turned out quite as we might have wished? The hard
reality is, surely, that for the likes of you and me ,
there is little choice other than to leave our fate,
ultimately, in the hands of those great gentlemen at the
hub of this world who employ our services. What is the
point of in worrying oneself too much about what one could
or could not have done to control the course one s life
took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and me at
least try to make our small contribution count for
something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared
to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such
aspirations, surely that is in itself, whatever the
outcome, cause for pride and contentment". 

Mr. Stevens was under the impression that a successful and
contented life could be achieved by being a great and
dignified butler. It was to this goal that he devoted his
entire time, energy, and spirit. His life was his job. By
being the perfect manservant, Mr. Stevens though that he
was making his own contribution to the world. If the people
he served were satisfied and then they continued on to do
something of importance, Mr. Stevens had been a part of
that and therefore could be seen as responsible for some of
the greater things to occur in this world. As he later
thinks to himself A great butler can only be, surely, one
who can point to his years of service and say that he has
applied his talents to serving a great gentleman - and
through the latter, to serving humanity. 

In his reflections, Mr. Stevens tries to convince himself
of the stupendous ramifications of his actions and the
actions of the gentlemen he served. He reminisces about the
well polished silver in his house. ... the state of the
silver had made a small, but significant contribution
towards the easing of relations between Lord____ and
Herr____ that evening. Something so trivial, he was sure
would affect the rest of the world. The satisfaction of
being able to say with some reason that one s efforts, in
however a modest way, compromise a contribution to the
course of history. 

As he strolls down Memory Lane, Mr.Stevens often finds
himself remembering things that were not as dignified as he
would have liked them to be. He has to convince himself
that the events that occurred in his past were indeed as
great as he would have liked to remember them as being. He
often avoids mentioning that he worked for Lord Darlington
because of certain rumors going around concerning the
political actions of his former employer. He wants to hide
away anything remotely bad and pretend that they never
happened. At times in the novel, Mr.Stevens shows off his
position to others in order to make himself important. He
lives vicariously through the lives of his gentlemen
employers. He tells people he meets that he has a hand in
England s international affairs. I never held any high
office, mind you. Any influence I exerted was in a strictly
unofficial capacity. In order to justify his
non-participation in worldly affairs, he claims to be
involved through the actions of the men he served. 

Mr.Stevens gives his life over to his vocation. He misses
out on so much of life - all for the sake of being a great
butler. When his father is on his deathbed, he is unable to
tend to him because he has his obligations in running the
house. He denies himself the pleasure of taking a stroll
around the pond for fear of dirtying his clothing and
bringing embarrassment upon the name of his house. He will
not even grant himself the right to love. At the end of his
trip, when he sees his acquaintance and co-worker, Miss
Kenton, after many years, she tells him that she often
imagines the life that she could have had with him. This
information ..provoked a certain degree of sorrow within
[him]. . . .at that moment, [his] heart was breaking.
Mr.Stevens never let himself off duty and denied himself a
life of happiness because of it. 

At the completion of his trip, Mr. Stevens' life is in a
shambles. He realizes that the life he led was not at all
satisfactory. He remembered once stating his lifetime goal,
" My vocation will not be fulfilled until I have done all
that I can to see his lordship through the great tasks that
he has set himself. The day his lordship s work is
complete,...content in the knowledge that he has done all
anyone could ever reasonably ask of him, ...only on that
day will I be able to call myself a well-contented man." 
But after much reflection, he sees that the life of his
employer was not as great as he would have liked. It is
hardly my fault if his lordship s life and work have turned
out today to look, at best, a sad waste - and it is quite
illogical that I should feel any regret or shame on my own
account. The truth is that these revelations cause Mr.
Stevens to realize what a waste his life has been and how
much more he could have done with it. Lord Darlington wasn'
t a bad man....And at least he had the privilege of being
able to say at the end of his life that he made his own
mistakes.....He chose a certain path in life, it proved to
be a misguided one, but there, he chose it, he can say that
at least. As for myself, I cannot even claim that. You see,
I trusted. I trusted in his lordship' s wisdom. All those
who served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile.
I can t even say I made my own mistakes. Really - one has
to ask oneself - what dignity is there in that? His entire
life was spent becoming the dignified and great butler he
thought he should be, but in the end he realized that he
himself had no identity. His name was as good as the name
of the house he came from. He returns to his house, with
all these discoveries behind him, only to continue in the
very same way. Not because he does not want to change, but
because he does not know how.


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