"Embarrassing as these moments were for me, I would not wish to imply that I in any way blame Mr. Farraday, who is in no sense an unkind person; he was, I am sure, merely enjoying the sort of bantering which in the United States, no doubt, is a sign of a good, friendly understanding between employer and employee, indulged in as a kind of affectionate sport. Indeed, to put things into a proper perspective, I should point out that just such bantering on my new employer's part has characterized much of our relationship over these months- though I must confess, I remain rather unsure as to how I should respond."

This passage is an excerpt from the Prologue. Because the meticulous, formal Stevens is not used to humor of any kind, he finds it extremely unsettling when his new employer, Mr. Farraday makes jokes, as he does not know how to reply in kind. Stevens is far too formal, and far too afraid of offending his employer, to hazard a reply that he has not carefully thought out. At several other points in the novel, while Stevens is on his road trip, he again voices his concerns about bantering, and describes several failed attempts at making funny remarks. This bafflement over the concept of casual banter characterizes Stevens's overall devotion to professionalism at the exclusion of personal or informal concerns.