Stevens feels he has to qualify some of his statements from earlier, and returns to the idea of Lord Darlington's purported anti-Semitism. According to Stevens, there was the rumor that people of Jewish faith were not allowed on the staff of Darlington Hall. Stevens says he can refute this with authority. There was one incident, however, when Mrs. Barnet, a member of a local 'blackshirts' organization and friend of Lord Darlington, spent a good deal of time visiting one summer. Soon after, Lord Darlington barred Jews from the staff of the Hall and Stevens was forced to fire two maids.
Later that night, Stevens informs Miss Kenton that they will have to fire the two Jewish maids. Stevens is himself clearly concerned by Lord Darlington's request but he says they must fulfill Lord Darlington's orders, since he is their employer. Miss Kenton, on the other hand, is completely aghast. She says that if Stevens agrees that the girls are good workers, then he's wrong to let them be fired just because they are Jewish. It is his responsibility, she says to take a stand. If the girls are fired, says Miss Kenton, then she will quit as well.
Stevens fires the girls, but Miss Kenton doesn't leave. She tells Stevens repeatedly that she has every intention of handing in her notice, but simply hasn't had the time. Eventually, though, Miss Kenton stays. A year later, Darlington comes to Stevens and asks him to trace the whereabouts of the maids - as he is terribly sorry for firing them. Stevens goes to Miss Kenton and tells him of Lord Darlington's aboutface on the maids, and Miss Kenton is surprised to see that Stevens felt the same way she did. In her eyes, she thought he didn't care at all about the girls - that he, in fact, agreed with Lord Darlington. She asks Stevens why he always has to pretend, and he avoids the question.
After the firing of the maids, a new housekeeper arrives named Lisa. Stevens is not a terrible fan of the girl, but Miss Kenton does a good job training her and Stevens is forced to admit she's doing a good job. Miss Kenton departs from her usual decorum and says she is surprised Stevens can admit that Lisa is competent because he always had such a strong aversion to having pretty girls on the staff of Darlington Hall. Stevens is embarrassed by such talk, but Miss Kenton reiterates that perhaps Stevens is flesh and blood after all and can't trust himself in the presence of pretty women. Eventually, however, Stevens is proved right in his suspicions when Lisa runs off with the footman. Miss Kenton agrees that Stevens was right to suspect her, and Stevens tries to say that Miss Kenton did her best with her. They both come to the agreement that giving up one's profession for romance is not only naive but also improper.
Stevens realizes that his relationship with miss Kenton changed quite dramatically around 1935 or 1936 after they maintained a proper and professional dynamic for so many years. Stevens thinks of an incident in the pantry as perhaps the biggest turning point. Miss Kenton had a habit of coming into the pantry with flowers to brighten it up, and one night she comes in while Stevens is reading. She asks him what it is he is reading, but Stevens refuses to tell her, saying it's private. miss Kenton says she suspects it's something 'racy,' and manages to pry it out of his hands. It's a sentimental love story. He shows her out of the pantry firmly. Stevens qualifies the incident heavily, saying he was reading the book only to improve his command of the language, and though he certainly enjoyed the romance, he thinks the nature of the book is irrelevant. Instead, he was embarrassed that he was seen 'off duty' in the presence of others. A butler must never be seen off-duty. He resolves to make sure he reestablishes the professionalism of his relationship with Miss Kenton.
Miss Kenton had two days off every six weeks. Usually on her days off, she might stay in Darlington Hall and just rest, but all of a sudden, Stevens notices that she is taking full advantage of her time off - disappearing for the full two days. She finds out that she has been visiting an 'acquaintance,' who used to be a butler with her at Granchester Lodge. Miss Kenton tells Stevens he seems like a well-contented man, for he is at the top of his profession, with every aspect of Darlington Hall under his control. Stevens replies that he will not be fulfilled until he can do all he can to fulfill Lord Darlington's wishes for the house. Another day, Stevens comes to Miss Kenton for their cocoa chat, but Miss Kenton says she is very tired. Hurt, Stevens says they should stop meeting for cocoa and despite Miss Kenton's protests, ends the meetings entirely and says she can leave him written messages.
Stevens returns to the present day, where he has parked his Ford on a dark road after breaking down. He walks down to the village where is hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. Stevens has dinner with the Taylors' friends, and they are deeply impressed by him as a gentlemen and believe that he is of a high rank. Stevens, for his part, says it is 'dignity' which makes a gentlemen. They ask him if he has met Churchill and Halifax, and Stevens says he has indeed, since he was involved in international affairs before war. Dr. Carlisle, a friend of the Taylors, arrives, and finds all the fuss over Stevens' celebrity connections a bit odd. Stevens says he felt terribly embarrassed over all the guests' misimpression of him.
Stevens usually seems to ramble a bit in his reminiscences, aimlessly exploring his memory before settling on a telling anecdote to end each section. In this particular instance, he ends on the story of attending the Taylor dinner, where he seems to have totally morphed into a man aspiring to gentlemanly status. Already we can see the difference between Stevens and a man like his father. Where Stevens' father would have never pretended to be of higher rank in order to curry favor, Stevens can't resist. He excuses away the entire episode as a misunderstanding, but deep down, he deeply wants the approval and rank of others to fulfill the void he feels inside.
Miss Kenton alludes to this tendency of Stevens when she asks him why he always has to pretend - why he can't simply relax and tell the truth. Stevens says he does not know what she's talking about, but at the end, we see this literal instance of pretending, and realize that Miss Kenton saw all along that he is shielded in a thick coat of armor through which most people cannot penetrate. By now, however, Stevens has clearly fallen in love with Miss Kenton. So deeply that he cannot seem to bear her taking her full vacation days to visit another acquaintance. Indeed, he seems passive aggressive in stating that his only need for contentment comes in service - and he has no other desires. It's as if he wants to make Miss Kenton feel guilty for her own human instincts.
Perhaps one of the less effective devices in the novel involves the constant returns to Lord Darlington's political views. Stevens has to reveal how he became enmeshed in his master's own politics, but we never seem to get a full grasp of what Darlington is actually like. We do sense, however, that he is fallible, and as he comes to admit this fallibility, Stevens begins to lose his complete filial devotion to him, and discovers his own self-esteem. The incidents of the maids, meanwhile, is less crucial for illuminating Darlington's politics and more of Stevens. Stevens is willing to subordinate his personal views in order to maintain his 'dignity.' For Miss Kenton, however, dignity comes in casting off the views of one's employer if they do not agree with one's own. In the end, however, she is practical enough to stay with Darlington even though she disagrees with his politics.
Stevens himself is extremely passive-agressive in his romantic strategies. The most illuminating moment of the opening section comes, of course, when he is caught reading a romantic novel. Immediately we see the veneer fall away and his true sentimental instincts emerge - his true fragility. But he cannot admit them to Miss Kenton and upon discovery of the novel, ushers her out with the resolve to reinforce their domestic relationship. Later, instead of confessing his love to her over their cocoa chats, he obfuscates his intentions, frustrates her, and ends up cancelling their chats to punish her for not putting up with his steel facade. What we begin to see, then, is Miss Kenton losing interest with Stevens as he fails in his ability to engage her on a deeper level. The more he comes to realize his love for her, the more he resists it.
Deep down, Stevens now seems at a crossroads. The reminiscing on his trip has seemingly made him realize the freedom of being a man. He has the time to see himself outside of his duties, outside of his comfort zone and we sense that he has renewed in confidence and vitality. As he nears Miss Kenton's house, we begin to sense his dramatic momentum - that he now has the opportunity to fully achieve self-fulfillment by embracing his love for her and declaring it.