Friday, September 18, 2015
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Stevens spends much of the time on his road trip, reminiscing about his past, mostly about the years leading up to World War II. During that time the estate was owned by Lord Darlington, a member of the English nobility who sympathized with the Germans because he believed that the Treaty of Versailles was too brutal. This belief allowed Darlington to be manipulated by the Nazis.
But the story belongs to Stevens, not Darlington. He is a butler who is the son of a butler, so his role is deeply ingrained. Stevens believes that a good butler subjugates his own opinions to his lord's opinions. Whenever he was asked to do something, he did it. It wasn't so much that he would do things he didn't believe in. Rather, he switched his beliefs to go along with whatever was requested. He becomes a master at having no opinions at all.
Stevens also becomes a master at avoiding answers to questions which may force him to express an opinion. This affects his relationships with people he encounters during his road trip and with Miss Kenton. This damaged, personal side of Stevens is what makes his character so fascinating.
The Remains of the Day is a wonderful character study and an excellent glimpse into a period of English history.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions