English aristocratic novel; tragedy; pre-World War II novel


Stevens, a butler

Point of view 

First person


Extremely proper and formal diction, with many English locutions, though hints of nostalgia and regret color most of the narrative


Present, when speaking about the present road trip; past, when speaking about memories

Setting (time) 

Early 1920s–July 1956, with especial focus on the period leading up to World War II

Setting (place) 

Darlington Hall; Stevens's road trip through the West Country to Little Compton, Cornwall



Major conflict 

Stevens's struggle with the knowledge that he has devoted his life to serving a man who may not in fact be a "great gentleman"; his regret that in doing so he has limited his worldview and been unable to accept or express his feelings for Miss Kenton


Stevens's brief meeting with Miss Kenton at the end of the novel

Falling action 

Stevens's newfound resolve to perfect the art of bantering and to stop thinking about what might have been


Stevens's occasional offhand allusions to events that turn out to be highly significant later in the narrative