In My Books: The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day is a Canadian published fictitious tale written by award-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro. The story of The Remains of the Day is centered around an English butler’s recollection of memories and tales during the WWI and WWII period. These tales are recollected by the butler, Mr. Stevens, during a motoring trip from Salisbury to Weymouth.

The tales that are relayed by Mr. Stevens throughout the book are centered around the idea of being a “great butler”. Mr. Stevens goes out of his way to showcase his commitment to Lord Darlington, his former employer, and Mr. Farraday, his current employer. One can’t help but notice that everything that Mr. Stevens notes is for the sake of showing himself to be a committed butler who puts service to his employer above everything. This is evidenced by one key event: the death of Mr. Stevens’ father. Mr. Stevens senior was a butler, just like his son. However, as age catches up to him, he is left without employment, until his son hires him as an under butler. During this time, Lord Darlington hosts a peace summit in Darlington Hall. Naturally, as the butler of the house, Stevens is entrusted to ensure that all goes to plan. However, right at this time, Mr. Stevens senior suffers a stroke and passes away. Upon being informed, Mr. Stevens junior decides to complete his work-related tasks as opposed to visiting his father. We see no remorse or sadness from Mr. Stevens during this time. Mr. Stevens’ only caring anecdote relates to the fact that the summit went well and earned him a lot of praise.

The notion of Mr. Stevens being a great butler cannot fully be appreciated however, because there are several holes within the story that indicate the opposite notion that Mr. Stevens is in fact not a great butler. Rather, he is simply a selfish man who is only concerned with himself. If we return to the tale related to the death of Mr. Stevens senior, it becomes quite apparent that Mr. Stevens’ only concern was to complete his duties and gain praise for doing a good job. His father’s demise was secondary. Another incident that shows the “un-great” butler like qualities of Stevens is when he narrates a tale of when his employer asks him to let go of two house maids because they were Jewish. At this time, Stevens does not question his employer neither does he express remorse when he lets the housekeeper, Miss Keaton, know of what is to occur.

It is unclear whether the author intends for the reader to see holes within this over all theme of greatness thus, hard to truly gauge whether the narrative is effective in communicating what a great butler is. Due to this, there is a great amount of confusion and disconnect when reading the book. In addition to that, there seems to be no reason for the author to have included a motoring trip as part of the over setting of the book as it serves no purpose.

Due to the disconnect created by the confusion on whether or not the reader is supposed to believe that Mr. Stevens is a good butler, The Remains of the Day becomes very tedious to read. The best reason to read this book is for the simple reason that the tales narrated contain interesting narratives.