“This is an attempt to review the book “Remains of the Day”. I’ve tried to the best of my abilities to intricately flag the nuances that the author had tried to put in the work. Through this work, I’ve also tried to cherish and uphold the beauty that this literature beholds”

A few lines about the author: Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro (8th November 1954- present) is a British author, musician, and Nobel Prize Laureate. The writer of numerous novels, stories, and screenplays, Ishiguro was born in the city of Nagasaki, Japan. But at the age of five, he moved to Britain along with his parents. In 1978, he completed his Bachelor’s degree of Arts in English and Philosophy from the University of Kent. Furthermore, he did his master’s in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. His literary career began with the publishment of his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, which was also the thesis for his postgraduate program.

Primarily a writer of fiction, Ishiguro has produced a plethora of blockbuster novels and stories. Some of his most widely revered works are –

  • Novels: A Pale View of Hills (1982), An Artist of the Floating World (1986), The Remains of the Day (1989)
  • Short stories: Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (collection) (2009)
  • Screenplays: The Saddest Music in the World (2003), The White Countess (2005)

Part of Ishiguro's appeal is his reserved style. His writings are generally structured in a way that hooks the reader and usually, it takes deep digging to truly get the flavour of his works. This might be due to the author’s nature of pre-structuring his plots and pre-planning the narratives. In his own words, he said, "Every time I've got another novel to write I just can't believe that I ever managed to write the one before. I do desperate things. I make notes. I spend a lot of time thinking. I'd do almost anything to get it going," he further adds. "I'm not the kind of writer who can put a sheet of paper into the typewriter and improvise. I have to know more or less the whole structure of the book beforehand."

The nature of the characters in his novels is another of Ishiguro’s striking features. The characters largely hold experiences and behaviours that Ishiguro does not resonate with. For instance, The Remains of the Day, largely centres around a British butler, going through a mid-life crisis, anguishing upon the fact that his services went to a person who was not deserving of that and regretting it. In his own words, he says, "I've always found it easier to be intimate and revealing with characters who were not like me," he further elaborates, "When you're dealing with someone not like yourself, you have to think much harder about why that person behaves in certain ways, why things have happened to him or her. I think one of the dangers of having a kind of alter ego in fiction is that you drag in all kinds of things that are irrelevant in an artistic sense simply because they are things that you are concerned with as a person yourself."

Ishiguro's works are celebrated all around the world. His blistering writing has brought him many awards and honours. Man Booker Prize for The Remains of the Day, Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government and Nobel Prize for Literature for outstanding work in the field of English fictional writing. 

The Crust of the Pizza:
Plot Summary

Narrated in the first person, the novel revolves around the life of an English butler named Stevens. In the novel, Stevens is portrayed to be dedicated to serving his master Lord Darlington for thirty-four years, who has recently passed away and is introduced to the readers in great detail through Steven’s constant memories about him. Up until 1956, Stevens served Darlington but after he deceased, the estate went to an American named Mr Faraday, who had a personality quite opposite to that of Mr Darlington and would always joke around, which skill would be often described by Stevens as ‘bantering’. Stevens was an imprint of his former master and hence, he found it difficult to get along with the new owner even though he doesn’t hold any disinterest in him.

Upon receiving a letter from her, Stevens decided to take a six-day road trip to the West Country to visit Miss Kenton, the former housekeeper of Darlington Hall who left twenty years earlier to get married. The letter addressed to Stevens works as a revelation of Miss Kenton’s miserable married life and her longing to return to Darlington Hall and work as the housekeeper as she used to do in the years earlier.

“During the trip, Stevens also recounts stories of his contemporaries—butlers in other houses with whom he struck up friendships. Stevens's most notable relationship by far, however, is his long-term working relationship with Miss Kenton. Though Stevens never says so outright, it appears that he harbours repressed romantic feelings for Miss Kenton. Even though the two frequently disagree over various household affairs when they work together, the disagreements are childish and mainly serve to illustrate the fact that the two care for each other. At the end of the novel, Miss Kenton admits to Stevens that her life may have turned out better if she had married him. After hearing these words, Stevens is extremely upset. However, he does not tell Miss Kenton—whose married name is Mrs Benn—how he feels. Stevens and Miss Kenton part, and Stevens return to Darlington Hall, his only new resolve being to perfect the art of bantering to please his new employer.”

As mentioned before, Stevens tends to get a lot nostalgic by reminiscing the old days when the Darlington Hall used to hold grand parties with large personalities dawning its compounds. Gradually, it is also revealed that Stevens’s employer used to hold a soft heart towards the Nazis. The sympathy was so profound that the Lord helped host a peace talk between Britain and Germany. However, Stevens disqualifies the claims and affirms that his master was a gentleman in the truest sense. And this striking revelation does not come from Stevens rather it is cones to the open light when Stevens interacts with people mutual to him and his dead master.

The Players and How They Play Their Part: Character Analysis

There are many characters in this novel, but there are Three major ones who help in shaping the narrative. The first and arguably the most important is our protagonist – Stevens. Secondly, Miss Kenton, the long-lost girl of the hero and lastly Lord Darlington. He’s never seen alive in the novel but still holds the key to the plot. The following is the descriptive characterisation of these three characters:


Stevens, the butler is a man to whom ‘dignity’ and ‘professionalism’ are not words but his skin which he could not take off. He is so much into the belief that he ends up making terrible life choices and remains lonely throughout the narration. His endeavours of achieving unparalleled heights of greatness by serving Lord Darlington snatches away his prospects of getting into intimate relations, having a family of his own or living for himself. In the beginning, it seems that he is content with what he achieved in life but upon meeting Miss Kenton and after giving a thought about what life could have been, he breaks down and starts questioning his past actions and regrets them.

Furthermore, Stevens is portrayed to be idolising his father, who later succeeds as the head butler of Darlington Hall. His father is showcased as the definition of a gracious and dignified butler. Stevens delightfully recollects all the great stories of his father’s highly formal dialogues with the noblest of people. And this over-the-top formality that Stevens inherits from his father becomes an obstruction to his personal growth. A few conversations between the son and his father, which we come across are also quite formal, lacking any kind of warmth or emotion. This anecdote is enough for us to get an idea about its troubled state of Stevens.

“With Stevens, Ishiguro uses two levels of narrative voice in one character: Stevens is alternately a narrator who is superior to the story he tells, and a narrator who is a part of, or within, the story he tells. Stevens at once displays himself as both a paragon of virtue and a victim of historical or cultural circumstances beyond his control. In this second role, he manages to cultivate our sympathy. His extra-narrative role crumbles at the end of the story when he realizes that the façade, he has cultivated is a false one. Ishiguro subtly increases the amount of doubt that Stevens expresses about his past actions so that by the end of the story, a fuller picture of Stevens's regret and sadness has emerged.”

Miss Kenton:

Miss Kenton is the former head housekeeper of Darlington Hall. Though both Miss Kenton and Stevens shared a common profession, there was no point of similarity between the two. Miss Kenton was equally competent as Stevens, but she also carried a personality and did never kill her feelings in the pursuit of serving Lord Darlington. She tries several times to get close to Stevens, but Stevens remains stuck to his shell and this compels Miss Kenton to marry a person who she never learns to love.

Lord Darlington:

“Lord Darlington is the former owner of Darlington Hall. He dies three years before the present day of Stevens's narrative. Darlington is an old-fashioned English gentleman who feels regret and guilt about the harshness of England's treatment of Germany in the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. This guilt is compounded by the fact that a close friend of Darlington's, Herr Bremann, commits suicide after World War I. This event, in conjunction with the dire economic situation Lord Darlington witnesses on his visits to Germany, inspires him to take action. In the early 1920s, he organizes conferences at Darlington Hall to allow prominent Europeans to meet and discuss ways to revise the Treaty of Versailles; later, he invites British and German heads of state to Darlington Hall in an attempt to peacefully prevent the Second World War. All the while, however, Darlington never understands the true agenda of the Nazis, who use him to further Nazi aims in Britain. After World War II, Darlington is labelled a Nazi sympathizer and a traitor, which ruins his reputation and leaves him a broken and disillusioned old man at his death. Stevens always speaks highly of Darlington throughout the novel; he says it is a shame that people came to have such a mistaken view of such a nobleman.”

Autopsy of the book’s literature

The Remains of the Day is one of Mr Kazuo’s most well-received novels. Released in 1989, this novel could be easily placed into the ‘tragedy’ genre of fiction. The storyline is largely based on English aristocracy and post-World War II trauma. Published by the British publishing house, Faber and Faber Limited, this book revolves around an English butler named Stevens and the events in the book are seen from a first-person view, to be more precise, from Steven’s view. The novel is set broadly between the early 1920s and 1956. The locations primarily switch between Darlington Hall and the road trip undertaken by Stevens from West Country to Crompton in Cornwall. The literature is marked with several hints of nostalgia and regret colour most of the narrative.

This book is mainly written around three themes-
i. Dignity and greatness,
ii. Regret and
iii. Loss.

i. The compound qualities of "dignity" and "greatness" pervade Stevens's thoughts throughout The Remains of the Day. He vehemently believed in staying dignified in his profession and had the credence that this sense of loyalty was a vital piece in the puzzle for achieving greatness. But later he realizes that this thought of achieving greatness was rather a dreadful mistake and his desperation had eventually left him secluded organizationally as well as emotionally.

ii. The novel doesn’t fail to show Stevens’s regret. Though it isn’t mentioned overtly, we can sense it by looking at Stevens’s breakdown at the end where he reminiscences about the terrible choices he made concerning Mr Darlington and Miss. Kenton. Even Miss. Kenton is portrayed to be girdled by a sorry state of the life choices she had made in her further past. In the climax of the novel, Stevens tries to part away with this thought but that turns out to be a mere consolation.

iii. The one thing that is binding to the entire novel is ‘loss’. Everyone in the novel is stricken with the loss of a loved one or certain ideals and dreams. For instance, Stevens mourns his father’s death, miss Kenton of Stevens, when she moves away from the Darlington Hall and Mr Darlington his novelty and stature and part of his sanity.


While reading and researching The Remains of the Day, I was constantly blown away by the articulate way in which Ishiguro had portrayed conflicting ideas and characters in one single person. Stevens’s character also worked as a life guide and taught me that success should not come at the cost of lost feelings and emotions. Someone who would soon enter the race for glory enlightened me to always keep a balance between professional and personal life.

“As Salman Rushdie comments. The Remains of the Day is "a story both beautiful and cruel." It is a story primarily about regret: throughout his life. Stevens puts his absolute trust and devotion in a man who makes drastic mistakes. In the totality of his professional commitment, Stevens fails to pursue the one woman with whom he could have had a fulfilling and loving relationship. His prim mask of formality cuts him off from intimacy, companionship, and understanding.”

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