Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes.


Bantering provides an element of lightness and humor in the narrative, yet it is still one that ultimately demonstrates the degree to which Stevens has become an anachronism. Stevens repeatedly tells of various failed attempts at bantering, and muses over why Americans like his new employer, Mr. Farraday, like to speak in such a casual and seemingly meaningless manner. By the end of the novel, Stevens cedes that perhaps bantering can be a way to exhibit warmth, and he resolves to try again with renewed zeal. The fact that Stevens uses the word "bantering" instead of "joking around" or "sense of humor" in itself shows how old-fashioned and formal he is.

Stevens's Rhetorical Manner

A recurrent structural motif in the novel is the rhetorical method Stevens uses to make his points. His primary manner of discussing a new topic is to pose a question and then answer it himself, incorporating into his answers a number of responses to anticipated counter-arguments. As rhetoric is a form of art and debate closely associated with England, this mode of discourse lends the novel greater authority as one firmly grounded in English culture and tradition. The rhetorical mode of discourse is intended to convince its audience; indeed, particularly in the early parts of the narrative, Stevens often succeeds in conveying the illusion that he fully understands all sides of the issues he discusses. As the novel progresses, however, we realize there are whole realms he has failed to consider, rendering many of his assumptions and arguments much weaker than they initially appear.