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Course Hero, "The Remains of the Day Study Guide," December 29, 2016, accessed September 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Remains-of-the-Day/.

The Remains of the Day | Quotes

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1.

I have been responsible for a series of small errors in the carrying out of my duties.


James Stevens, Prologue

Stevens's new employer, Mr. Farraday, has suggested Stevens take a road trip while he himself is away in America. Here, Stevens is attempting to explain why—for professional reasons—a letter from Miss Kenton has led him to consider Mr. Farraday's suggestion. He reveals a great deal about himself in this short passage. He describes the errors of the past few months as "small." Elsewhere, he describes them as "trivial." However, they are serious enough to disturb him. As the story progresses, a pattern emerges of minimizing events with deeper personal significance. This allows Stevens to keep control; never to permit emotional reaction to events to overwhelm him. Stevens's statement also reveals the expectations of perfection he holds for himself. He is not accustomed to committing errors, even trivial ones. While a worthwhile quality, Stevens takes it to extremes that lead to great unhappiness. Finally, with the phrase "you will understand," he tries to draw the reader in to sympathetic agreement. This manner of addressing the reader as someone who surely understands is another pattern that emerges as the story unfolds.

2.

It is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart.


James Stevens, Chapter 1

On the first day of his journey, Stevens climbs a hill to discover a view of the surrounding countryside he considers splendid. The view is in some ways unremarkable—one that might be encountered anywhere in England—yet it is memorable in its quiet beauty. The qualities of calmness and restraint reflected in the English landscape strike Stevens as the essence of greatness and symbolic of the greatness of Britain itself. They are also qualities Stevens personally admires and strives to possess, believing them to be essential in a great butler.

3.

Dinner will be served at the usual time.


James Stevens, Chapter 1

This is the punch line of a story Stevens tells epitomizing his concept of dignity. It was a favorite of his father's, and Stevens heard it often while growing up and starting to hone his own professional skills. One afternoon, an English butler for a gentleman traveling in India enters the dining room to find a tiger lounging under the table. Calmly, he shuts the doors and goes to consult with his employer, who is entertaining guests in the drawing room. The butler gains his employer's permission to shoot the tiger and then does so. The whole affair is accomplished without the slightest trace of excitement or hysteria. The butler then returns to the drawing room to calmly announce dinner will be served on time.

4.

'Dignity' has to do crucially with a butler's ability not to abandon the professional being he inhabits.


James Stevens, Chapter 1

This notion is central to Stevens's professional work ethic and the basis for his neglected private and emotional life. After defining dignity, he goes on to explain that a butler possessing dignity will discard his professionalism only by choice and when he is entirely alone. In contrast a lesser butler is not capable of emotional restraint and will abandon his professional being when shaken up by external events. He is not in control. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear Stevens's determination to acquire and maintain dignity comes at the expense of his personal well-being. He, in fact, is trapped and emotionally cut off by the rules he has made for himself. He is unable to set aside his professional demeanor, even at times of extreme personal anguish, as when his father is dying.

5.

We both watched your father walking back and forth in front of the summerhouse.


Miss Kenton, Chapter 2

This is an excerpt from Miss Kenton's letter. Stevens dwells on it awhile, as it conjures recollections of his father's days of declining health. William Stevens comes to work at Darlington Hall as an under-butler when he is in his seventies. His best years are behind him. Yet this is difficult for him or his son to admit until the day the elderly man falls while carrying a tray to the summerhouse, where Lord Darlington is busy entertaining guests. William himself denies physical frailty made him fall, and blames the steps that climb to the summerhouse. However, when he is well again, he spends time pacing them, as if to discover what really happened. The "precious jewel" he seems to be looking for, while Stevens and Miss Kenton watch from an upstairs window, is his dignity, which he lost when he fell.

6.

He was a truly good man at heart, a gentleman through and through.


James Stevens, Chapter 2

Throughout the novel Stevens repeatedly praises his former employer, Lord Darlington, for being the epitome of moral worth and then affirms his personal pride in serving such a great man. However, as Stevens sifts through the memories of his years in service to his lordship, another truth emerges. Whether Lord Darlington was a sympathetic dupe or an active participant in the Nazis' fascist schemes, he is proven to be a man of highly questionable judgment who admired the strong-arm government advanced by Adolph Hitler. Though Stevens's honesty demands he provide the facts about his lordship, he repeatedly tries to cast them in a more favorable light. Even when the truth becomes undeniable, Stevens will not permit himself to criticize or question his lordship's actions.

7.

I fought that war to preserve justice in this world.


Lord Darlington, Chapter 2

This sentiment is at the core of Lord Darlington's concern over the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and their effects on the population of post-World War I Germany. The feeling that the treaty unjustly heaped misery on the German people drives his lordship to work to get the harshest terms revised. However, his honorable intentions are used by the Nazi regime to further its influence in Britain. As his lordship becomes more and more entangled in behind-the-scenes politics, he is too naive and inexperienced to recognize fascist leader Adolph Hitler's true intentions.

8.

The days when you could act out of your noble instincts are over.


Mr. Lewis, Chapter 2

The statement is made by an American senator from Pennsylvania, Mr. Lewis, at the conclusion of the conference of March 1923 at Darlington Hall. Lord Darlington has worked tirelessly to form an international coalition of dignitaries who will use their political influence to force reform of the Treaty of Versailles. After assessing the results of the conference, Mr. Lewis passes harsh judgment on the qualities of the participants. While acknowledging their good intentions, he warns that in the changing world of politics, their noble instincts are antiquated and dangerous; they are naive and have no idea who or what they are dealing with. At the time, the senator's warning seems exaggerated and rudely out of place. However, time proves it to have been accurate and well worth heeding.

9.

Why, Mr. Stevens, why, why, why do you always have to pretend?


Miss Kenton, Chapter 5

In this outburst Miss Kenton reproaches Stevens for his unyielding emotional restraint, especially when it would have brought her comfort to know how he felt. Stevens and Miss Kenton are briefly alone in the summerhouse. Nearly a year has passed since the housekeeper threatened to quit when her two maids were fired for being Jewish. Lord Darlington has recently voiced his regret over the matter. In sharing this with Miss Kenton, Stevens notes the maids' dismissal distressed him terribly as well. Recalling how pitilessly Stevens had carried out his lordship's order, Miss Kenton is bewildered by this revelation, wondering "why, why, why" Stevens could not have been honest and sincere about his feelings. Unable to look behind his own mask, Stevens laughs and rejects her observation as ridiculous.

10.

The two of us had been suddenly thrust on to some other plane altogether.


James Stevens, Chapter 5

The moment Stevens is describing occurs in the butler's pantry, when Miss Kenton enters unannounced to find Stevens reading a romance novel. He is taken aback and tries to conceal the title. She teasingly advances toward him with the idea of looking more closely at the novel to see what he is hiding. As she stands before him, the noted change occurs. The style of Stevens's description is, itself, very much like a romance novel, as if the moment and memory are cast in the same light. Phrases like "then she was standing before me" hold a sense of drama and sexual tension. Therefore, Miss Kenton's next statement takes on deeper meaning: "Please, Mr. Stevens, let me see your book" suggests she is asking to see more than a book, but the man hidden behind the role he always plays. She pries the book from his hand as if it is the key that will unlock his secrets.

11.

Such evidently small incidents ... render whole dreams forever irredeemable.


James Stevens, Chapter 5

This is as close as Stevens comes to an admission of his true, buried feelings for Miss Kenton before their meeting in Cornwall. The incidents he refers to include his overreaction to Miss Kenton's intrusion on his privacy; his petulant suspension of their meetings over cocoa, and his clumsy, insensitive expression of concern over her aunt's death because he is unable to openly express sorrow for her grief. As is his habit, Stevens minimizes the incidents, labeling them as "small" and, in this way, trivializing their importance. However, in direct contradiction to this, he then acknowledges they have rendered "whole dreams forever irredeemable." Then, drawing too close to the truth for comfort, Stevens immediately retreats and writes, "But I see I am becoming unduly introspective."

12.

Indeed—why should I not admit it?—at that moment, my heart was breaking.


James Stevens, Chapter 7

This is the moment Stevens realizes he was and still is in love with Miss Kenton. Denial and self-delusion are stripped away. He has met with Miss Kenton (now Mrs. Benn) in the tea lounge of the Rose Garden Hotel. As they wait for her bus back home to arrive, Miss Kenton confesses that sometimes she thinks she made a mistake in leaving her job to marry; she might have been better with Stevens. Nevertheless, she goes on, "there's no turning back the clock now. One cannot be forever dwelling on what might have been." In other words she will never return to Darlington Hall. Stevens understands he has forever lost his chance to love and be loved.

13.

All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile.


James Stevens, Chapter 7

The key word here is "trust." Stevens is speaking to a man—a retired butler—he has met while sitting on the pier in Weymouth. The emotional strain of the past few days weakens Stevens's wall of reserve, and he confides to the man that his trust in Lord Darlington was misplaced. The consequences have been ruinous. In his service to Lord Darlington, Stevens believed he had intelligently chosen to bestow his life and loyalty on a great and decent man. In this way he was indirectly participating in the glorious plans of the aristocracy to make the world a better place. He trusted his lordship's accomplishments would be moral and noble; a source of pride. Now Stevens feels his life—so closely bound to the rise and fall of Lord Darlington—has been rendered meaningless and without dignity. Even his mistakes are not his own. His statement represents a moment of painful self-recognition.

14.

I should ... try to make the best of what remains of my day.


James Stevens, Chapter 7

The lights of the pier at Weymouth have come on, to the delight of the evening crowd. Stevens is pondering the gentle advice of the former butler he spent some time with in conversation. He has spent the last few days exploring the past and trying to make sense of it all; to understand the missed opportunities, disillusionments, and his personal sense of failure. Unable to change what went before, he must decide how to face the future in whatever time he has left.

15.

In bantering lies the key to human warmth.


James Stevens, Chapter 7

Stevens has been trying to master the art of bantering in order to please his new employer, Mr. Farraday. It has been a conscientious effort stemming from a sense of duty, with no understanding of the pastime's purpose or worth. However, by the end of his journey, Stevens cannot ignore the emptiness in his life and the wasted years of emotional restraint. Imprisoned by his standards of greatness and burdened by propriety, he can neither give nor receive a spontaneous expression of emotion. He realizes, at least in part, what this has cost him and looks upon bantering with a new appreciation. Perhaps it will bring some much-needed human warmth into his life.

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