Monday, April 03, 2006

 

Mr. Stevens could have had so much more!!!

Mr. Stevens' emotional journey throughout The Remains of the Day is the complete opposite of a rollercoaster ride. Stevens fails to see the small pleasures in life and appreciate emotions for what they are. When it finally seems that Mr. Stevens learns how to judge his feelings, he completely denies them once again. The end of The Remains of the Day left me feeling hollow. I wanted to scream, "Mr. Stevens, you could have had so much more!" The only remains in life that Stevens looks forward to are "Work, work, and more work" (237). This is definitely not a happy ending.

Mr. Stevens denies his emotions at several crucial points in the novel. One of the most evident denials is in Stevens' conversation with Miss Kenton. After Miss Kenton tells Stevens that she sometimes thinks about the life she may have had with him, Stevens admits to the reader, "Indeed- why should I not admit it? – at that moment, my heart was breaking" (239). However, Stevens simply smiles at Miss Kenton and makes the remark, "You are very correct, Mrs. Benn. As you say, it is too late to turn back the clock" (239).

When Stevens is bantering poorly with a stranger about his absence of dignity in life, he denies his emotions once again. Stevens realizes that he has been completely living for someone else; he states, "I can’t even say I made my own mistakes. Really – one has to ask oneself - what dignity is in that?" (243). Tears roll down Stevens face as he admits to the stranger on the bench that he may not have dignity. When the stranger offers Stevens his "hankie," Stevens insists that, "it’s quite alright…. The traveling has tired me" (243). Obviously with this remark, Stevens has not made any emotional breakthroughs.

Bantering is another topic on the mind of Mr. Stevens. On the very last page of the novel, Stevens further analyzes bantering: “After all, when one thinks about it, it is not such a foolish thing to indulge in – particularly if it is the case that in bantering lies the key to human warmth” (245). Although, instead of Mr. Stevens taking this knowledge of bantering and applying it to form new relationships in the remains of his life, he thinks only of Mr. Farraday, and how his new found talent in bantering may please him (245).

What makes this novel most depressing is the contrast between Miss Kenton's future and Mr. Stevens' future. When speaking of Miss Kenton's future, Mr. Stevens says, "…With Mr. Benn retiring, and grandchildren on the way… you and Mr. Benn have some extremely happy years before you" (240). The only thing that Stevens has to look forward to is work, and dying alone at Darlington Hall. Mr. Stevens could have had a life with Miss Kenton, and grandchildren of his own; however, his obsession with work, and neglect of his own life, leaves him completely disconnected from all others.


Comments:
Every ending of every book we have read thus far has possessed varying degrees of happiness; none has been entirely good or entirely bad. "The Remains of the Day" is no exception. If I had to choose one word to describe the ending of this novel, I would choose bittersweet. The ending is obviously in many ways sad because Stevens does not marry Miss Kenton, and realizes the horrible mistake he has made in neglecting his personal life in order to serve a man who turns out to be not as wonderful as Stevens led himself to believe. Yet the fact that Stevens is actually able to process his emotions shows that he has made at least some progress since the beginning of the novel. Although he does not divulge those emotions to Miss Kenton, Stevens understands that he should “adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day” (244). While Stevens cannot change his past, he certainly can – and seemingly will – change his future.
 
I'm not sure that I would agree that Stevens has made no progress, though it's certainly true that he could have had much more. He does at least go so far as to admit that his heart was breaking. He does at least regret not being able to admit his own mistakes. Even leaving Darlington Hall for this excursion was a rather big step for Stevens. It is agreed that this is not a happy ending, by any means, and I, too, would like to kick Stevens in the face for reverting to speculation about bantering, as if he's learned nothing. I would argue that he is somewhat better off than he was before, though, even if he is trying to repress his own emotional progress.
 
Katy, the title of your post basically sums up my feelings about the ending of the novel. Seeing Stevens pass up opportunities to be happy with Miss Kenton again and again is so frustrating, and the less-than-happy ending leaves the reader unsatisfied. Why couldn't he just have told Miss Kenton how he felt?! When Stevens admits his heart is breaking, ours break, too. The life he has lived has made it virtually impossible for him to express his feelings. Stevens indirectly admits his lack of emotion, saying he will continue to learn to banter "particularly if it is the case that in bantering lies the key to human warmth" (245). At least this shows a glimmer of hope that he has made at least a little progress, as Grace points out, and may continue to do so...although, at this point in his life, it is pretty unlikely.
 
I agree that Stevens could have indeed had "so much more," but I would also argue that the Stevens the novel ends with and the Stevens the novel starts with are wholly different people. Stevens does grow, though perhaps not as much as we would have liked him to, throughout this novel. The admittance of such a feeling as heartbreak, for a guarded man, is a big thing, I believe. Stevens was remarkably closed off to the reader which is incredibly frusterating as we yearn to get inside a character's mind. The little glimpse of true Stevens, as indicated by his admittance of heartache, leads me to believe this ending was not completely hopeless.
 
The ending of all the books we have read have had a mixed quality of happiness/hope and sadness/depression, "The Remains of the Day," however, definitely falls on the side with the books that ended more sad than happy. I loved your title "Mr. Stevens could have had so much more," you make some very interesting points in your post. When you discuss the part at the end when Miss Kenton tells Stevens of her feelings, if he had truly learned enough through his journey, he would have said more than "it is too late to turn back the clock." The end does however show progress when Stevens admits to the stranger that his heart is broken, but it is too little too late to salvage the end of the novel and turn it into a happy ending. The novel illustrates the problems that exisited within the colonizing state of English society, the institutionalization of people.
 
I, too, was drawn into this post by the insightful title. There are times during this novel when I just wanted to scream at Stevens: "You idiot! Don't you see that she's going to marry another man if you don't say something?!?!" It was incredibly frustrating. I wanted Stevens to run off with Miss Kenton, or at the very least, get a kiss. But I think there's a reason that Ishiguro doesn't give us that satisfaciton. I've noticed a general trend in our posts that everyone says "it was sad that this happened, but at least..." Is that what we're meant to get from these books? At least? At least we almost got a happy ending?

I, for one, loved Stevens. I thought he was a great and complex character. And I think that if Stevens ran off with Miss Kenton, he would not be as complex or intruiging. If the novel is going to imitate life, there can't always be a happy ending. People are flawed, and ironically, that's a major part of what makes them who they are.
 
The ending of Remains of the Day left me feeling frustrated and disturbed. Even though Stevens has developed this false idea of "dignity" in his mind, one cannot help but sympathize with him. As readers we witness all of these emotions that he is just dying to express. He clearly has feelings for Miss Kenton, but chooses to hide them as a result of his stoicism. He feels that it is his duty to display the utmost degree of dignity towards his employer. Therefore, he cannot allow his emotions or feelings to present themselves in any situation. He feels that he will defy his employer if he states his opinion on anything. Mr. Farraday tries to joke with Stevens, but he does not know who to respond to humor because he has lived a sheltered life. His love for Miss Kenton is also quite obvious, but he never reveals the truth until its too late. At the end of the novel, he realizes that his life has been a huge mistake. He finally understands the importance of living for oneself and not for others and also thinking for oneself. He desperately wants to confess his love for Miss Kenton, but does not because she has a husband and children. Miss Kenton is clearly unhappy with her life and the man that she married, but knows that it is the right thing to do to stay with him. The ending is rather heartbreaking when Steven finally discovers his life's true meaning, but will have to finish it out alone. He jokes about how he will continue to work on his "bantering" with Farraday.
 
How many times in our lives have we said, "Oh if only i did this instead of that...". I think Remains of the Day manages to capture that sentiment well and Katy hit it spot on. Mr. Stevens could have had a lot more if he only allowed himself to be connected with the people around him instead of pondering about how best to wait by the side of a corner to serve dinner. But then, you also have to wonder...through our eyes, we see Stevens as someone that could've had so much more but what about what Stevens thinks? Or should we even give him the power to think about his own ending if we know that he will only probably deny that which smacks him in the face?
 
I, as many others commenting on this blog, was attracted to the title. Stevens could have had so much more, but he didnt. Like Lisa said, if he did have so much more, this novel wouldn't imitate real life and Ishiguro wouldn't have a book to write.

At the end of the novel, I was annoyed and felt sorrow for Stevens character. I couldn't believe I read the whole book to find out he did not end up with Miss Kenton, but again, life is not always picture perfect.

Since Stevens failed miserably in this novel at becoming his own person, we can commend him for the goals that he fulfilled relating to others lives. He was a dignified butler, a decent friend, he finally showed emotion (to strangers), almost told Miss Kenton how he felt and decided to take up bantering to impress his current master.

Miss Kenton will have grandchildren; Stevens will banter.
 
I would argue that the only progress that Stevens has made by the end of the novel is the slight realization that he has wasted his life. While he is so very old now, unfortunately I believe that there is no time to undue all of the psychological missteps that he has taken. It is the same concept as a conflicted post-colonial nation: there is no way that they can fix their ingrained problems in a few weeks, or a lifetime. It is a process that Stevens unfortunately does not have time for. :(
 
The initial metaphor of the anti-rollarcoaster is a great description of Stvens' character. A life dedicated to duty is the opposite of the emotional exhilarating rush that the literal ups and downs of a rollarcoaster provides. Though selfless, Stevens' life is empty of any self-gratification aside from the roadtrtip which his employer practically forces him to go on.
 
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