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The Remains of the Day

Prologue: July 1956 / Darlington Hall

Summary Prologue: July 1956 / Darlington Hall

The narrative is complex because it incorporates both Stevens's knowledge of and his blindness to the events he recounts; we is strictly limited to knowing only what Stevens wishes to disclose. The narrative style is extremely discursive and unhurried, and incredibly deliberate and detailed.

From the narrative style we immediately see that Stevens is a very proper, meticulous person. His attention to detail is extraordinary; he even lists all the various different sorts of traveling clothes that he might need for the journey. Though Stevens repeatedly says that his trip is professional in nature, we see through his words that, on a personal level, he very much looks forward to seeing Miss Kenton again. Indeed, it is the arrival of her letter that incites his desire to take the trip. The fact that Stevens used to look at books to get a clue as to Miss Kenton's new home once she left Darlington Hall also demonstrates that she is constantly in his thoughts, even when she is no longer working with him.

In the novel, Ishiguro presents two ways of being English that are largely at odds with each other. Stevens embodies older codes of decorum—gracious, practical, and undemonstrative. The present culture is less concerned with what is proper, and more concerned with what is efficient. While the older England scorned American culture and politics to some degree, the more current England embraces these concepts, causing a division within the country between two very different viewpoints. Stevens's discussion of "bantering" demonstrates his entrenchment in old-fashioned values and judgments. In order to banter in the manner of Mr. Farraday, Stevens would have to stop taking himself so seriously—and it is difficult to imagine a more serious character than Stevens. Stevens is far too afraid of offending Mr. Farraday to ever be relaxed enough to joke with him; he literally thinks that he is inferior to Mr. Farraday because he is a servant and Mr. Farraday is his master. Although the strict hierarchy that used to characterize the ordering of English manor houses has faded away in favor of more democratic views, Stevens has not adapted to a climate in which he might joke with his employer as an equal.