The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Let me now posit this: ‘dignity’ has to do crucially with a butler’s ability not to abandon the professional being he inhabits.

The Remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day is a novel that tells the first-person account of Stevens, a head butler at Darlington Hall. My wife recommended this book to me since she was impressed with the rave reviews of Kazuo Ishiguro, who won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. Although we typically read different genres, the book’s focus on the role of a butler caught my attention, particularly given my interest in the character of Alfred in The Dark Knight trilogy.

Stevens’ employer, Mr. Farraday, suggests he take some time off while he’s away. Despite his initial reluctance, Stevens decides to take a road trip to visit a former colleague, Miss Kenton, for whom he has fond feelings, but never confessed due to his interpretation of dignity. The story centers around Stevens’ pursuit of what dignity means and the qualities of a great butler. Through reflecting on his past experiences, Stevens demonstrates how he exhibits dignity and possesses the qualities of a great butler. However as the story nears the end, Stevens begins to doubt his interpretation of dignity, as he realizes that even though he has completely given himself to his profession and serving his employer, it came at the expense of hiding his own feelings and personal opinions.

“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?”

The Remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro

While I enjoyed the book’s focus on these topics, I found that not all of Stevens’ past experiences contributed meaningfully to his character development. At times, similar points were conveyed and reinforced by different experiences. However, I appreciated the book’s insights into the demanding nature of the butler profession and exploring what it means to have dignity.

Overall, The Remains of the Day offers a unique perspective on the role of a butler. While it may not appeal to all readers, its exploration of Stevens’ character and the demanding nature of his profession make it a worthwhile read for those interested in the topic.