Monday, April 03, 2006


The Morning After

The remains of Stevens' last day on his adventure is indeed the most uplifting part of his journey through his life. Throughout our travels with Stevens we've seen the evolution of his character taking place. The end result is a butler who will live out his life the same way as before but with a sense of self realization that will leave him with unsatisfying regrets and longings. His final evening brings hope, but what will the morning bring?
At first Stevens is sure that serving a great gentleman gives him contentment with his life. He seems to have no interest it taking part of the world unfolding around him. He prefers his master to make the decisions for him. He feels that serving Lord Darlington is "as close to the hub of this world's wheel as one such as I could ever have dreamt." (126) He disregards himself as one unworthy of participating with the world and only wishes to be a bystander.
Throughout his travels, doubts creep in. He questions Lord Darlington which leads him to question life and his purpose in it. He is greatly troubled at Miss Kenton's phrase in her letter that "the rest of my life stretches out as an emptiness before me." (49) He is also bothered by another passage that says "I have no idea how I shall usefully fill the remainder of my life..." (49) One wonders if these passages are so disconcerting to Stevens because they represent the questions that worry him. The past, which was once a solid ground for him, has become shaky and leaves him with questions for the future. It leaves him wondering was the remainer of his days hold for him.
As the journey is coming to a close, Stevens starts coming to new realizations. He starts seeing himself as an individual. He rethinks dignity, saying "I can't even say I made my own mistakes. Really-one has to ask oneself- what dignity is there in that?" (243) This idea makes him think that dignity might not be to always keep everything hidden behind a mask, but in risking it, making mistakes, and righting them for oneself. He starts realizing that humanity and his interactions with others are an incredible part of life. He's missed out on "human warmth" (245) and resolves to try to banter to connect with others.
This novel, like all the others, shows the importance of the "only connect" theme. With connections and relationships comes a sense of achievement and even dignity. The ending of the Remains of the Day is similar to the other books. The picture painted has a rosy colored hue to it, but it leaves us asking what the harsher sunlight of the next morning may bring.


Great post! I liked that you gave a description of the transformation that Stevens goes through in Remains of the Day with a close reading of the text. As you relate, the ending is rather bittersweet because he does go through changes, but, realistically, what can he do in the remainder of his days to incorporate the human warmth that he has neglected to pursue in his life thus far? One can see that the idea of connection expressed in this novel can only occur with Mr. Farraday, the only man in Stevens' life that is with him on a daily basis and can provide a close relationship for Stevens. Stevens, contemplating how to establish a connection with Mr. Farraday, decides that bantering is the best method. In the beginnning of the novel, Stevens discusses his desire to be an effective bantering butler, but this desire is rooted in his need to be proficient at his job. At the end of the novel, when Stevens says he will continually strive to banter with Mr. Farraday, it is to establish a connection with another human being. Stevens has realized that letting people into his life is inherent to being a dignified person. His obsession in the past with being a dignified butler prevented him from doing so. The remains of Stevens' days will be spent seeking out this emotional connection that will truly make him dignified in the end both as a butler and as a man. Great post!
I found the end the best, but saddest part of the novel. It is true that he finally recognizes the value of what he has been missing, but, maybe pessimistically, I think the end is not so hopeful. He plans to improve his bantering skills mainly to please his employer. He seems to think about just as stiffly as he has always thought about such things. So, he realizes the worth of human connection, that he missed his greatest opportunity for it with Miss Kenton, but you could say that his "heart," it did just break by the way, isn't in it in the end and he will go back to pretending. His one moment of revelation is not enough to change his emotionally starved life, especially since he has no one special to go back to. And so he goes back to his employer.
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I absolutely agree with Krista. Stevens is a butler who has missed out a lot in life. He has lived most of his life serving an employer whom he thinks is infallible. In the end of the book, he laments his blind loyalty to Lord Darlington has cost him a lifetime of warmth and happiness. He feels like a slave who has no hope of ever breaking away from the shackles of emotional estrangement. Because he feels that he has lost the ability to "connect" with the outside world, he feels that he has nowhere else to go, but to back to his old cocoon, Darlington Hall where he can feel safe and content within the cold stone walls that have physically and psychologically imprisoned him for most of his life. Although he fears the harsh sunlight of the next day, that is, the uncertainty of the future, Stevens still feels optimistic about his present condition as long as he continues to preoccupy himself with housekeeping work and bantering. Many readers may denounce Stevens of being a petty man with petty ideals. But, at least he is trying to regain some small part of his humanity by growing more intimate with his present American employer. His employer is the only thing he has left in the world. As Krista mentioned, Stevens may not have found the "connection" he is looking for, but, his effort to redeem himself from a life of wretched emotional depravity is laudable
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