Monday, April 03, 2006

 

Always Back to Connection

The ending of The Remains of the Day carries with it a certain disappointment, but is also appropriate to the character of Stevens. In this way, it parallels the ending to A House for Mr. Biswas. Both novels show a missed opportunity for connection realized too late. But for Stevens, there still may be hope for his remaining life.
After everything Stevens has been through in his personal crisis and encounter with Miss Kenton, he seems to recognize the importance of relationships watching the strangers become friends at the pier lighting. Stevens analyzes the group saying, "It is curious how people can build such warmth among themselves so swiftly. It is possible these particular persons are simply united by the anticipation of the evening ahead," (Ishiguro 245). From this statement, it appears Stevens has learned something about human connection from the recent events of his life. The following sentence, however, serves to be a disappointment when Stevens goes back to his old ways saying, "But, then, I rather fancy it has more to do with this skill of bantering," (Ishiguro 245). From this we learn Stevens will continue to work for Mr. Farraday and try to improve his bantering skills.
At first glance it is frustrating to think Stevens has just returned to his same proper but repressed ideas before he made his journey and confronted his feelings with Miss Kenton. It seems strange he would go back to serving another for the remainder of his life instead of retiring to live it out peacefully. The problem with this option for Stevens is that he has no one to live his life with if he retired. After his father’s death and his missed chance with Miss Kenton, Steven’s employers are the only significant people in his life and Mr. Farraday is his only potential for connection. It is appropriate, then, for Stevens to pursue bantering once again.
In the end, Stevens believes that "in bantering lies the key to human warmth," (Ishiguro 245). Mr. Farraday has interacted with Stevens through bantering before, so it makes sense Stevens would try to perfect it again in order to establish more of a relationship with his American employer. Bantering as leading to "human warmth" may seem at first an odd idea, but it may also be the bridge by which Stevens can connect to Mr. Farraday.
The idea of Stevens returning to attempting banter with Mr. Farraday is disappointing because it seems he goes back to his beginning repression and underdevelopment. This would mean he has not learned anything from his experience and crisis. However, it is also logical because after his missed connection with Miss Kenton the only significant human relationship he can expect to have is with Mr. Farraday. He will spend the remains of his days perfecting his beloved profession and "bantering" with Mr. Farraday. This indicates he has learned something from the experiences of an emotional crisis and his final meeting with Miss Kenton. At the very least he is trying to experience human warmth.

Comments:
I think that Mary Jo makes a very interesting point. I stand by my comments in class in regards to the ending of the novel being an unhappy one. However, Mary Jo has made me think twice about Stevens' future. I don't really agree with her conclusion, but at least it has made me think twice.

Mr. Farraday may very well be the most logical choice for Stevens to attempt to make a connection with. However, I also think that that is taking the easy way out. Stevens is an old man at this point. He does not have a lot of prospects in front of him. However, if he truly wished to change, he would not have reverted back to the bantering discussion with which he ends the novel.
 
I do believe that while this novel was not very happy, there are some elements of hope in its ending. I'm not really sure what would be a happy ending for this book. We can hardly expect Stevens to quit his job and run away with a married woman. What's done is done, and the fact is that Stevens lost his chance with Miss Kenton a long time ago.

In Stevens comments about bantering at the end, we see that he does seek a more personal relationship with Mr. Farraday. It seems that he has hope for a friendship between them. Stevens is an old man by now, and if he can die with one meaningful friendship, then it is better than nothing.
 
Mary Jo makes a good point in noting that although Stevens' return to bantering is a letdown, it is also realistic. We can't expect Stevens to change overnight, especially because he is set in his ways and is an old man, so it makes sense that he takes small steps in connecting. Yet at the same time, this ending feels a little...incomplete. The title "Remains of the Day" suggests that there is something salvageable for Stevens, but it doesn't feel like enough for him or the reader. This seems to be a common thread in the other novels we've read: in some way or another, they all have broken endings which cannot be wholly repaired.
 
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