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.
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.
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.