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The Remains of the Day > Lord Darlington the Fascist

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 07, 2009 02:10PM) (new)

"theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die." - tennyson.

I think the biggest thing looking back on reading it was this...

1. is steven's, by the end of the book, morally justified in offering his best service to lord darlington in spite of the knowledge that darlington was affiliated with the nazi's?

2. if we argue that steven's is morally justified because he lacks the worldly knowledge to understand the implications of his employers affiliations, then what can we say about nazi soldiers?

3. are nazi soldier's morally justified for their actions during world war II, or have they simply given, in spite of their ignorance on worldly matters, their best services to a leader with a heinous cause? are they morally damned because of their affiliation?

these issues becomes clear when steven's is talking to the people in the house after his car breaks down. One of the guests is speaking of democracy and people having the moral responsibility to rise up and do their part. Steven's takes the opposite opinion and believes that people should just do their job and leave worldly matters to the people who know (darlingtons, churchills, hitlers, etc etc).

i think the most crucial moment of the book in which these issues comes into play is steven's father's death. i don't want to go too deep into the analogy because i don't have the time to do both the book or WWII enough justice. but it's something to think about. i think for most of us, this was the moment we were able to judge steven's morality.


message 2: by Bill (new)

Bill | 10 comments 1. In his mind, yes. To the reader, I don't think he should be.

2. He does have the worldy knowledge - he could have answered those questions posed to him in the library that one night. He's not inept. He rationalizes, though, that it's not his place to weigh in on, or concern himself with such things because his job is to serve. Much like Nazi soldiers may have rationalized what they were doing because they were just soldiers... they all knew the consequences of what they were doing but did nothing about it because they either agreed with it or copped out of it by saying it wasn't their place to speak up.

It was the actions of Stevens, in that case, that emboldened those noblemen to believe that one class had more right to make important decisions than others when he could have shown that he was knowledgeable.

3. They either agreed with it or gave in to their station in life. To me, those are both morally inexcusable.


message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 07, 2009 02:45PM) (new)

i think you're right about the nazi soldiers, but it's that mentality specifically that ishiguro is bringing into the light and forces us to question.

if we say that it's wrong that they either agreed or gave in... what do we say about American soldier's in Iraq?

i don't want to start any debate on the iraq war or debate whether or not American soldier's have been brave. They have. I just want to discuss the ethical quandaries of war and soldiers in general, a question that is tangentially raised by the book.

is the ethics of war (in steven's case... service) something we can even judge?


message 4: by Bill (new)

Bill | 10 comments Yeah, that's tough.

It's tough because there are gray areas with the war in Iraq, whereas I think we can all agree that the Holocaust was pretty awful.

It would require a lot of time and probably more than a few drinks...


message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 07, 2009 07:14PM) (new)

Bill wrote: "Yeah, that's tough.

It's tough because there are gray areas with the war in Iraq, whereas I think we can all agree that the Holocaust was pretty awful.

It would require a lot of time and probab..."


i think that's the point that ishiguro was trying to make, that even in the gray areas we can still judge a person by his/her actions. it's difficult for us to judge the iraq war because we're americans, just as it was difficult for stevens to judge darlington because he was his butler.

we know in hindsight and from the outside that the holocaust was bad, but i think what ishiguro wass getting at is that if you are the nazi soldier... you really don't know anything better. at this point in history, you have nothing. you've been ruined already by one world war, and you'll believe in anything and trust in anyone if it means you have a fighting chance at surviving in the world.

and in that sense "dignity" becomes a metaphor for the empty dreams of nazi germany. it's nothing, just fancy rhetoric! dignity to stevens is just a means to defend his unethical actions, even though we know as a reader he's just using hollow, circular logic.

so there's really no way for anyone to defend what stevens did, nor is there anyway to defend what the nazi's did (unless you are able to delude yourself... no bishop jokes please.)

what's killer though, is that if we are planted in the pov of those supporting the crime (i.e. stevens to darlington; nazi's to hitler) there's this tragedy that grows out of their miopic worldview. if we aren't able to sympathize with it, we are at very least able to empathize with it, which is what got me when i finished the book.



message 6: by Alfonso (new)

Alfonso Stevens is obviously ashamed about working for Lord Darlington because of what Lord Darlington did during the war. A couple of times he avoids mentioning the fact that he worked for Lord Darlington. I see Stevens more as the population of Germans that lived near the concentrations camps that knew what was been done, but turned a blind eye because it did not disturb their day to day activities. It is interesting that when he has to fire the two Jewish maids he does it with out any question, yet later when he is talking to Mrs. K he agrees with her that he believes it was wrong to dismiss them for been Jewish. In this respect he is as guilty as Lord D. and lacks dignity for being an accomplice. He was in the mindset that what is being done is for the best if those that are in charge say so. Ignorance is bliss.


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