The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is a fictional novel about regrets and lost chances. This book is Ishiguro’s third published novel and has received the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 1989. The Remains of the Day uses several literary techniques such as tone, flashbacks, symbolism, and foreshadowing to emphasize the core themes of dignity, regret, and loyalty. The plot mainly revolves around human weaknesses and misjudgments.
The Remains of the Day is a first person narrative of an English butler named Stevens on 6-day trip to the English countryside. Stevens could be considered as the “perfect” butler due to his serious personality, exemplary work ethic, and strong sense of loyalty. Stevens has been working as a butler at Darlington Hall for 34 years and was encouraged by his current employer Mr.Farraday to partake in the trip. Throughout his trip, Stevens recollects and reflects on his past experiences working under his former employer Lord Darlington. Stevens highly reveres Lord Darlington as a great and distinguished gentleman. However, as he continues to reflect on his time under Lord Darlington, Stevens starts to have doubts concerning Lord Darlington’s greatness. Stevens also reminisces about his relationship with a former housekeeper of Darlington Hall, Miss Kenton. During his trip, Stevens visits Miss Kenton with the hopes of persuading her to return to Darlington Hall, only to find that she had already moved on with her life. After realizing the mistakes he had committed in the past, Stevens vows to make the best of what time he has left with his new employer Mr.Farraday.
The novel has seven chapters, in the form of a diary, each representing a day or part of a day during Steven’s trip. Stevens constantly switches between narration about his present day activities and flashbacks of his days working for Lord Darlington. The author uses tone to emphasize Steven’s changing feelings regarding Lord Darlington as he looks back on his actions. Stevens tone is that of nostalgia and regret over things that he did and failed to do in the past. For example, in the fifth chapter of the novel entitled “Day Three—Evening/Moscombe, Near Tavistock, Devon,” Stevens recollects about an event where Lord Darlington requested him to fire two maids because of their religion. Stevens loyally followed Lord Darlington’s command and fired the maids, which in effect, angered Miss Kenton and worsened their relationship. It is later revealed that Stevens himself was hesitant towards firing the two maids and believed that if he had behaved differently it would have resulted in a more favorable outcome.
The author also uses symbolism and foreshadowing to reflect Steven’s values and to show the many changes that occur during Steven’s life. One symbol used in the novel is the English landscape. While Stevens is traveling, he notices the beauty of the landscape and comments on what makes the landscape beautiful as shown in the following excerpt: