Essay, Research Paper
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day is about the struggles one man, Mr. Stevens, has with relationships with his father, Miss Kenton and his employer, but the struggle he focuses on the most is to be a “great butler.” He pushes himself physically to work as hard as he can, as well as mentally to determine what makes a butler great. Stevens sacrifices all normal human encounters with those around him in order to be an emotionless person. “When one encounters them, one simply knows one is in the presence of greatness” (44). Stevens, through many trials, proves himself to be a “great butler.”
Stevens possesses “the emotional restraint which only the English race are capable of” (43). When his father takes ill during a major dinner party, Stevens remains calm and goes on with his duties. After Stevens’ father passes away he says to Miss Kenton, “please don’t think me unduly improper in not ascending to see my father in his deceased condition just at this moment. You see, I know my father would have wished me to carry on just now” (106). Stevens is capable of going about his work after his father has died, which takes much emotional restraint. Although the reader may see this action as heartless, it is clear that Stevens respected and looked up to his father, therefore was upset by his death. Stevens believes his “father was indeed the embodiment of dignity” (34), which is what Stevens is trying to become.
Stevens also is successful in hiding his feelings when it comes to Miss Kenton. He is clearly in love with her, yet he hides his love behind his somber dealings. When returning from a date Miss Kenton asks Mr. Stevens, “Are you not in the least interested in what too place tonight between my acquaintance and I?” (218). Mr. Stevens acts as though he is more interested in returning to his work when really he is dying to know. Miss Kenton does all she can to get Stevens to show some sort of emotion, but she always fails. She even tries to anger him by telling him that she and her acquaintance “often pass the time amusing [themselves] with anecdotes about [him]” (219). He just brushes her comments off and goes about his business.
Stevens’ fixation with being a “great butler” instigates his lack of personality and social skills. He has pushed his feelings deep within himself for so many years that he does not know how to act naturally around people. When his employer, Mr. Faraday, suggests Stevens taking a road trip one day, Mr. Stevens spends the next few weeks trying to think of a way to bring up the topic again:
“It nevertheless made sense not to broach the topic when he was preoccupied or distracted. A refusal in such circumstances may well not reflect my employer’s true feelings on the matter… I had to choose my moment wisely.” (12)
Stevens does not know how to deal with people naturally. He has to plan a conversation and responses to his employer so that he appears at ease, when really he is extremely nervous. Stevens, who always has his guard up, is not capable of being himself around anyone. When his employer jokes around with him, Stevens has to “set about thinking of some witty reply; some statement which would still be safely inoffensive in the event of [his] having misjudged the situation” (16).
Stevens attains his goal of being a “great butler”, but while doing that loses his individuality. He misses out on love and friendship. He gets so accustomed to being withdrawn and dignified that he loses any social skills he ever had. His butler behavior becomes second nature and when he finally gets out of the workplace he does not know how to be social with people he meets. The most important thing in his life is his job and he is willing to sacrifice all other aspects of life in order to be the best.