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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Remains Of The Day - 1407 words
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Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day gives an eloquent treatment of the issue of how a stoic English butler's unemotional reaction to the emotional world around him is damaging and painful, and how he resolves to make the best of the 'remains of the day'; - the remainder of his life. Ishiguro explores some of the differences between the old English Victorian culture - that of the stiff upper lip, no show of emotion, and repression of personal opinion - and the no-holds-barred American culture of free expression of opinion and emotion. The American culture's spread into England is hastened with the two world wars, and it ends Stevens' old way of work, if not the job itself. Although Remains of the Day concentrates on a particular culture, and an obsolescent one at that, Ishiguro makes many insightful observations on human behavior in general. I will explore a few of these observations here, and attempt to show that Ishiguro's work possesses meaning far beyond an examination of one emotionally-repressed servant. Ishiguro illustrates Stevens, and all of the old English butlers, as characters who basically amount to machines, unable to think for themselves.
They see loyalty to the master as the only thing that matters in the world. Every time Stevens ends his lines with 'sir,'; he is repressing his true identity. Ishiguro makes the reader wonder how on earth a person could get to be like this, for the sole reward of having the best silver in the house or the best-starched suits. The old service culture of butlers in England was destined to change dramatically after the two world wars; by the time Stevens decides to change his lifestyle the old ways are already gone forever.Stevens even relates the subdued nature of English scenery to the proper way of dignified behavior, in his observation that the English countryside is more dignified than the showy American landscape, in its 'lack of obvious drama or spectacle'; (28). Obviously, most regular people in England did not act like the butlers. The behavior of the old butlers represents stereotypes which persist today in our conception of the people of England
Afterall, 'butlers only .. exist in England'; (43). Indeed, Farraday judges the worth of Stevens, and Darlington Hall, according to stereotypical ideals of genuine Englishness. In a moment of panic, Farraday demands of Stevens, 'this is a genuine grand old English house, isn't it? .. And you're a genuine old-fashioned English butler, not just some waiter pretending to be one.
You're the real thing, aren't you?'; (124). The instance in which Stevens is called to the dining room to give his opinion on world affairs is particularly sad: the lordship and his guests want to have an amusing little discussion, but all Stevens can manage to say is, 'I'm sorry, sir, but I am unable to assist in this matter'; (196). Behind each minor task of Stevens, Ishiguro raises deep questions about human beings' relationships to their employers, and the repression of emotions which frequently occur. When Stevenslearns that Lord Darlington's reputation was totally wrecked after it was revealed that that he had sued a newspaper for libelous accusations about his alliance with Nazis, Stevens realizes that all his years spent trying to be dignified for Darlington were wasted. Darlington's ruin makes a joke of Stevens' years and years of personal service and devotion. Ishiguro may be attempting to make a point about all people's attitudes toward their employers: do not spend your whole life trying to please one boss because you may find in the end that it was not worth it. Ishiguro draws a comparison between the intense loyalty of a butler to his lord and the loyalty of the German people to Hitler. Though Stevens insists on referring to his father as 'sir,'; his loyalty to him leads to a break in his professional duty to his employer, since he supports his father's attempts to hide the signs of his disability.
Stevens' inability to acknowledge the decline of his father's abilities may in fact be a suppressed emotion of love for him, but he cannot possibly acknowledge that. If Stevens had a healthier relationship with Lord Darlington, he might have been able to relate to his father as a son, instead of just another loyal employee. A key case of Stevens' inability to realize the expression of love is his relationship with the head housekeeper, Miss Kenton. He allows the one potential love of his life to escape with his inability torespond to her overtures for a relationship. Miss Kenton eventually marries and falls out of Stevens' life, due to his excessive professionalism.
When Stevens meets Miss Kenton, now Miss Bern, manyyears later, he is suddenly overcome by his repressed emotions and thinks, 'Indeed - why should I not admit it? - at that moment, my heart was breaking'; (239). Ishiguro's description of Stevens' and MissKenton's interactions relentlessly reminds the reader how dysfunctional Stevens' behavior is when potential real emotions toward other humans attempt to surface. One of the most tragic parts of the book occurs when Stevens' father, also a butler, lies dying in an upstairs bedroom, saying, 'I hope I've been a good father to you,'; and the most emotional thing the son can say is 'I'm so glad you're feeling better now,'; over and over (97). This is simply the end product in a lifetime of unhealthy denial of emotions. Stevens treats these moments as merely another part ofhis professional duties, believing that it was 'a turning point in my life .. as the moment in my career when I truly came of age as a butler'; (70).
Stevens sees these final acts toward his father as firmlycementing himself in a position worthy of his father's good opinion, as the ideal, dignified butler. The younger Stevens saw as the 'personification itself of .. 'dignity in keeping with his position''; hisfather's rather creepy emotionlessness and unquestioning service to a general whose stupid mistakes resulted in a friend's death. The rigid yet arbitrary social order provides Stevens his whole, yet limitedsense of self. The American Senator Lewis' visit to Darlington Hall includes a speech in which he says that the British needed real 'professionals'; to run their affairs instead of gentle, dignified gentlemen who try toplease everyone, such as Darlington (102).
Lord Darlington, like Stevens, also feels the effects of outdated ideals of politeness and duty. He reprimanded the important politicians and leaders of WorldWar I for asking too many reparations from the Germans. Darlington gives a sense of how out of touch he is with his remark to Stevens, ' .. Deeply disturbing. It does us great discredit to treat adefeated foe like this.'; Lewis' speech also can be thought of as saying that Darlington Hall needs butlers who can effectively mediate and discuss emotional problems, rather than mindlessly approvingeverything the boss says.
This issue can be related to Neville Chamberlain's policy of dignified appeasement to Hitler: while he was busy trying to be polite, he helped expose his country and Europeat large to the threat of a man for whom dignity was quite beside the point. Ishiguro reveals to the reader the moral lapse in England's leaders who failed to prevent Hitler from gathering power, soidealistic conditions such as peace, loyalty and duty could be maintained. The English who shared Chamberlain's weak, conciliatory attitude may have been part of the reason Great Britain declined as aworld power. In the colonial days, that way of doing things was not so harmful because Britain was the most powerful nation on the planet, but in the modern era with the once upstart United Sates as abudding superpower, and the Empire unraveling, the old idea of dignified talk and modest reserve would no longer do. Ishiguro discusses how Stevens Senior ran into this problem while attempting to treat Germany with 'fair play'; in the years leading to the start of World War II.
The American way of freely expressingopinion, even if feelings are hurt in the process, began to seep into not only England's old homes but also its government. Stevens is a symbol of this change for the entire country. The rules of honorableconduct which Stevens had believed with all his heart absolutely necessary for the smooth operation of Darlington Hall and old England made way for an American-inspired, efficient professionalism in whichknowing one's place rapidly goes out of favor. Farraday, the easygoing American who takes over the hall after Lord Darlington's death ...
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