The Remains of the Day is a profoundly compelling portrait of the perfect English butler and his fading, insular world in postwar England. At the end of his three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a country drive, during which he looks back over his career to reassure... read more
The Remains of the Day is a story about regret. It is told from the perspective of an English butler named Stevens who in 1956 decides to take a road trip to the West Country of England. Stevens has been a faithful and proper butler at Darlington Hall for over thirty four years. Lord... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The Remains of the Day is a story about regret. It is told from the perspective of an English butler named Stevens who in 1956 decides to take a road trip to the West Country of England. Stevens has been a faithful and proper butler at Darlington Hall for over thirty four years. Lord Darlington is now deceased and is now owned by Mr. Farraday, an American gentleman. While Stevens likes Mr. Farraday, he is uncomfortable with his informality and unsure how to interact in the manner Mr. Farraday prefers and Stevens oftens lacks the necessary skill of casual conversation or "bantering" which he believes important to better please his current employer.
The road trip is intended to visit Miss Kenton, the former housekeeper of Darlington Hall who left twenty years earlier to get married. Stevens received a letter suggesting that Miss Kenton might like to return to her post as housekeeper, a prospect Stevens would welcome since it has been difficult to find enough people to staff Darlington Hall since the war ended.
Much of the narrative is composed of Stevens's memories of his work as a butler. He describes elaborate scenes, dinner parties and prominent guests who have stayed at Darlington Hall in those times. It is gradually revealed that Lord Darlington, has deep sympathies with the Nazis due in part to his experiences with a lost friend. While Stevens always maintains that Lord Darlington was a perfect gentleman, he is saddened how his reputation has been soiled simply because of naivite to the Nazis' true aims.
Stevens also recounts stories of his contemporaries including butlers and staff of other prominent houses of England with whom he has developed professional friendships. In addition, though Stevens will never admit, he harbors repressed romantic feelings for Miss Kenton despite the fact that they have very different styles. Several disagreements are recounted over various household affairs but mostly reveal the fact that the two care deeply for each other. Miss Kenton eventually admits that her life may have turned out better if she had married him - which extremely upsets Stevens - despite never telling Miss Kenton his true feelings for her.
Stevens puts his absolute trust and devotion in his profession and never pursues the one woman whom he could have had a loving relationship filled with both intimacy and companionship. In the end, Miss Kenton grows to love her husband and is in fact quite pleased with her family. Steven’s is left to focus on “the remains of day” as he looks forward to a life of lonely service with unrequited love for Miss Kenton.
“Embarrassing as these moments were for me, I would not wish to imply that I in any way blame Mr. Farraday, who is in no sense an unkind person; he was, I am sure, merely enjoying the sort of bantering which in the United States, no doubt, is a sign of a good, friendly understanding between employer and employee, indulged in as a kind of affectionate sport. Indeed, to put things into a proper perspective, I should point out that just such bantering on my new employer's part has characterized much of our relationship over these months- though I must confess, I remain rather unsure as to how I should respond.”This passage is an excerpt from the Prologue.
“The English landscape at its finest—such as I saw this morning—possesses a quality that the landscapes of other nations, however more superficially dramatic, inevitably fail to possess. It is, I believe, a quality that will mark out the English landscape to any objective observer as the most deeply satisfying in the world, and this quality is probably best summed up by the term 'greatness.' … And yet what precisely is this greatness? … I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart. What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it.”This quotation is taken from the section titled: "Day One—Evening / Salisbury."
“'He was my enemy.' he was saying, 'but he always behaved like a gentleman. We treated each other decently over six months of shelling each other. He was a gentleman doing his job and I bore him no malice. I said to him: "Look here, we're enemies now and I'll fight you with all I've got. But when this wretched business is over, we shan't have to be enemies any more and we'll have a drink together." Wretched thing is, this treaty is making a liar out of me. I mean to say, I told him we wouldn't be enemies once it was all over. But how can I look him in the face and tell him that's turned out to be true?'”This passage, from one of Stevens's reminiscences about the past, is presented in the "Day Two—Morning / Salisbury" section.
“How can one possibly be held to blame in any sense because, say, the passage of time has shown that Lord Darlington's efforts were misguided, even foolish? Throughout the years I served him, it was he and he alone who weighed up evidence and judged it best to proceed in the way he did, while I simply confined myself, quite properly, to affairs within my own professional realm. And as far as I am concerned, I carried out my duties to the best of my abilities, indeed to a standard which many may consider 'first-rate.' It is hardly my fault is his lordship's life and work have turned out today to look, at best, a sad waste-and it is quite illogical that I should feel any regret or shame on my own account.”This passage, taken from the very end of the "Day
“But that doesn't mean to say, of course, there aren't occasions now and then- extremely desolate occasions—when you think to yourself: 'What a terrible mistake I've made with my life.' And you get to thinking about a different life, a better life you might have had. For instance, I get to thinking about a life I may have had with you, Mr. Stevens. And I suppose that's when I get angry about some trivial little thing and leave. But each time I do, I realize before long—my rightful place is with my husband. After all, there's no turning back the clock now. One can't be forever dwelling on what might have been.”These words, spoken by Miss Kenton, are taken from the "Day Six—Evening / Weymouth" section of the novel.
“If I thought there was one modicum of sense in what you are saying, I might bother to engage with you in discussion. As it is, I think I shall simply place my thoughts elsewhere while you chatter away.”
“By the very nature of a witticism, one is given very little time to assess its various repercussions before one is called to give voice to it, and one gravely risks uttering all manner of unsuitable things if one has not first acquired the necessary skill and experience.”Mr. Stevens
Prologue: July 1956 Darlington Hall
Day One - Evening Salisbury
Day Two - Morning Salisbury
Day Two - Afternoon Mortimer's Pond, Dorset
Day Three - Morning Taunton, Somerset
Day Three - Evening Moscombe, near Tavistock, Devon
Day Four - Afternoon Little Compton, Cornwall
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