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The Remains of the Day > I really liked this book...

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message 1: by Bill (new)

Bill | 10 comments ...just have not had time to sit down to articulate fully my feelings about it.

I love how an author can have a pink elephant in the room for an entire novel, recognize it in one brilliant sentence out of the whole thing, and then move on without directly addressing it again:

"For instance, I get to thinking about a life I may have had with you, Mr. Stevens"

Sure, the poor bastard mentions his heart is breaking in the next paragraph, but then he goes right back to being Mr. Stevens.

It was painful to see Miss Kenton be so poorly mistreated in her affections towards Mr. Stevens throughout the entire book (and since the whole thing was narrated in first person, we know its not that he didn't see the signs, he just didn't understand them or was too blinded by his "dignity" and duty to notice them). You wanted to scream "take Miss Kenton into your room and do dirty servant stuff..."

Then, just at the end when you have hope for some "Love in the Time of Cholera"-style elderly love making, it doesn't happen and Stevens finally realized he missed the boat on a certain aspect of life because he was too worried about Lord Darlington's image.

It goes back to the portion where someone asks him (paraphrasing) when he can rest or let his guard down, and he says something to the effect of: When Lord Darlington has achieved everything he has to and he can rest. He lived his entire life for someone else - but it wasn't a mutual relationship. He got nothing in return except for rude guests and laughter at his expense and he turned a blind eye to the important things (potential love, a dying father, etc.). There's nothing dignified about that.

And I love his powers of rationalization throughout the book. It always went in three stages and it happened a lot.

1: I am outraged that Lord Darlington is perceived this way.
2: Well, I can kind of see how some people might think that.
3: In hindsight, we could have handled that better (firing of the jewish staff, etc.)

The whole book is a rationalization on the life he chose - but instead of learning from that, he accepts his fate with dignity, I guess, and goes right back to worrying about his bantering skills.

I call that denial.

Great book all together. Really enjoyed it... will probably dump more thoughts in here as they come...

message 2: by Liz (new)

Liz (jedimindreader) Stevens did live his life to serve, and unfortunately, gave up the possibility of love or any other happy additions to his life. However, I disagree with him not having dignity. Well, our western idea of dignity, perhaps. We are constantly under the thought that if we live for ourselves (i.e. get the best education to get the best job to get the nice car to buy the house to raise the perfect family that we hardly live with or see because we have the nice job we drive to with the european sc756 car we bought). I'm not a hypocrite. I would like these things as well. Dignity, as it has been defined in these blogs, is the act of serving one self instead of others. This is fine, for an american lifestyle, but I don't think it relates to an European one, or more relatable to this book, an English lifestyle.
"Duty first, self second," expressed in the movie The Queen, sums up my idea of this novel. Although, to us, Stevens seemed to have given up his whole life to a man who gave him nothing in return, Stevens got the satisfaction of completing and serving his duty admirably.
The situation with his father is awkward to us, especially when he talks in the third person, but let's evaluate that relationship for a second shall we? Where do you suppose Stevens got this sense of "dignity" and duty? Answer: his Tiger-in-the-dining-room-story-telling father. He can't exactly go to him and say, "Dad, you need to relax and take it easy." That's what I would say or a slight variation, but to a father who has taught him day in, day out, breath after breath of civility, dignity, and propriety I wouldn't expect anything less than the way he addressed him.
Miss Kenton, OK.. He was an idiot. However, it's not like was intently trying to be a jerk. He just didn't get how she was feeling about him, even though she brought him flowers and overreacted with every little comment Stevens made. Let's not be too harsh on him. After all, Stevens is a butler, but he is a man first and foremost and I think that speaks volumes in his inability to adequately talk and relate to his female counterpart.

Thank you and good night The Remains of The Day! Now on to the next book!

message 3: by Bill (new)

Bill | 10 comments Stevens has dignity, I just disagree with his definition and can't believe that would be a happy existence. For him, maybe, not for me.

(And, by the way, you can live for yourself and family without being materialistic, which seems to be your definition of American dignity). It's not one polar opposite or the other.

RE: English dignity

Stevens described plenty of others in the "profession" who had found love and left the profession. They are just as English as he is... so to say that this book presents a wholly English definition of dignity as serving others doesn't ring true.

Ishiguro himself presents an alternative English definition of dignity with the people he encounters in the town after he runs out of gas. They are just as English as Stevens.

My impression was that it was the author's intent to show Stevens as misguided, albeit content in his misguidance...

message 4: by Liz (new)

Liz (jedimindreader) I'm not monopolizing the definition on any type of dignity. I feel sometimes americans deem dignity or worth of self through service to themselves rather than others. We always want something in return. And I am not equating materialism to dignity, I simply stated that more often than not this sense of keeping to ones self and expecting things in return seems to lead to an existence ruled by a vicious cycle of materialism... not that they are one in the same.

Re: Re: English Dignity

You are right that Stevens did describe other who left the profession and found love and all that good stuff, but just because they found it and were able to identify it doesn't make Stevens any less dignified for not being able to do so himself. I have read many English novels and they all seem to have the same definition of dignity (i.e. Austen, Dickens, Bronte sisters, and numerous others) as I am sure you and all in this group have done the same.

Perhaps the novel is expressing the idea that dignity is expressed by the individual and is evaluated by their own standards. Perhaps it is trying to convey that the old ways of thinking of dignity and the new way clashes or is evolving. Either way, I agree with you that this fellow by my own standards was, in fact, at a loss of life. A life without love is no life at all. However, I was trying to defend his character a bit... I think he's just old fashioned and not everyone is meant for happiness or maybe his profession is his happiness.

As for him being misguided... I got that too, but then I thought to myself... Stevens is going on this wonderful journey and all he can think about is his memories of servitude. I've been there... I went to Disneyland to forget this guy that broke my heart but all I kept on thinking about was how the characters reminded me of him or how he liked candy apples (I know... I know...) because he, for a long time, was a lot of my existence. I think that's what happened to our buddy Stevens. He didn't fall in love, or at least he thought he didn't, or have children, he had a career as a butler. In many ways his Lord Darlington (not a darling at all) was my (insert my heartbreaker here).

I really enjoyed our conversation... I was just kidding about the man thing by the way... I'm sure a lot of men know how to talk to women (understand is another story all together +)).

Let's go to England and poll them on Dignity! Anyone have any frequent flyer miles I can borrow? I'm broke. =(

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