The Remains of the Day

Examining Lost Identity and Dignity through Stevens 12th Grade

The novel The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro examines the different facets of dignity. The protagonist, a butler named Stevens, adamantly seeks to become a great and dignified butler, a task that he believes only the most imperturbable can achieve. As he examines his life while on a motoring trip, the self-deception and disillusionment fostered by this concocted ideal become clear. Through Stevens' interactions with his own personal affects, including his name, his room and his clothing, Ishiguro warns that excessive propriety and restraint lead to the deterioration of one’s identity, and deprive one of human warmth, and affection.

Ishiguro manipulates the utilization of names in order to illustrate how Stevens’ vocation and ideals wholly consume his selfhood. Since the novel takes place in pre-World War II England, a defined hierarchy is an integral part of society and names are direct reflections of one’s status. As a butler, serving the most prominent figures of England, Stevens is constantly required to adhere to the proper usage of titles, ingraining in him a correlation between names and dignity. In addition, his daily use of titles reinforces that he is a subordinate to lords and gentlemen. Due to Stevens’ complete...

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