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The Remains of the Day Suggested Essays

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Suggested Essay Questions

  1. What does Stevens see as the paramount virtue in a butler?

    Answer: Stevens believes that a butler first and foremost should exhibit dignity, or rather the ability to remain professional no matter what the situation. Even in the most dire of circumstances, a butler is responsible for maintaining his facade.

  2. Why does Stevens choose not to reveal his position as a butler during his dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Taylor in Moscombe?

    Answer: Deep down, Stevens is seeking to finally build his own identity, and he finds tremendous freedom in pretending as if he had met all the British luminaries as a result of his own professional prowess. But when it is finally revealed that he is a butler by Dr. Carlisle, he feels tremendous relief.

  3. What is Stevens' only regret as the novel comes to an end?

    Answer: At the end of The Remains of the Day, Stevens has one overhwleming regret - that he never got to be his own man, make his own decisions, and stand up for himself. He realizes that he has been merely an extension for his various employers and never truly had the chance to follow his own desires or make his own life.

  4. Why does Stevens not confess his love to Miss Kenton at the end of the novel?

    When Stevens meets Mrs. Benn at the end of the book, she has already come to terms with her own loveless marraige and given up on the dream of love. Stevens sees that she's agonized with the decision and thus does not pursue her, knowing the cause is lost.

  5. What is meant by the title The Remains of the Day? Answer: Stevens invokes the title to mean what is left of his life. At the end of his story, he returns to Darlington Hall to live out what remains, unsure whether he's lived a life he can be proud of. One can also take the novel's title to refer to the last days of the British aristocracy.
  6. Why does Stevens not protest Lord Darlington's anti-Semitism? Answer: In Stevens' view, a butler must always be an extension of his master's wishes. It is not his place, therefore, to contradict Lord Darlington's orders, even if he finds them morally repugnant. Miss Kenton on the other hand vows to quit if Lord Darlington goes through with his plan to fire the maids.
  7. Why does Stevens initially set out on his journey to Mrs. Benn? Answer: Stevens has clearly been devastated by Mrs. Benn's departure from Darlington Hall - an event that happened twenty years ago. But in recent days, she has announced the end of her marriage and also sent him a letter suggesting that she may wish to return to her duties at Darlington. Stevens ventures to convince her to return.
  8. At the Taylor's dinner, what is the alternative definition of dignity that Stevens hears presented? Answer: Mr. Harris tells Stevens that dignity is in no way a simple acquiescence to professionalism, but rather quite the opposite - the ability of a man to speak his opinions and truth no matter the circumstances. He believes freedom of expression is what makes a man ultimately dignified and honorable.
  9. How would you best describe Stevens' relationship with his father? Answer: Though Stevens loves his father, there is clearly a thick wall between them precisely because his father is so deeply mired in work. Indeed, even on Stevens' father deathbed, he can only muster one last thought - that he likely wasn't a good father.
  10. Why can't Stevens tell Miss Kenton he loves her? Answer: Stevens isn't necessarily 'repressed' as much as he is torn between his duties and his desire. In his eyes, a butler cannot embrace human emotion and thus human frailties without likely being disassembled completely. And thus, whenever he wants to show his love for Miss Kenton, he does so in the context of her work - something she inevitably rejects.

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