The Remains of the Day

Summary

Day Six–Evening / Weymouth

Summary Day Six–Evening / Weymouth

Stevens says that Lord Darlington at least made his own mistakes, but says that he himself cannot even claim that, because he trusted Lord Darlington so completely. Stevens does not think that there is much dignity in such an action—not even being able to say he has made his own mistakes. The man seated next to Stevens tells him not to look back so much because it will only make him unhappier. Then he says that the evening is the best part of the day for most folks. Stevens agrees, and apologizes for crying. He decides to make the best of "what remains of my day." The first thing he will work on upon his return to Darlington Hall is bantering: he hopes, when Mr. Farraday comes back, that he will be able "to pleasantly surprise him."

Analysis

The final section of The Remains of the Day is incredibly sad, as Stevens never tells Miss Kenton that he loves her because he feels that it is too late. Listening to her talk about her husband and her daughter has made him realize how much time has passed, and how much opportunity lost. Stevens does ask Miss Kenton if she has ever thought of working again; she replies that she has, but now that she is going to have a grandchild, she wants to be nearby. Though Miss Kenton's words crush Stevens's last hope of her ever returning to Darlington Hall, he, of course, never even says to her that he was hoping she would do so. Stevens's last and largest hope has now been shattered, compounding the other losses and regrets that seem to have characterized much of his life.

The meeting is the climax of the novel. Even though Stevens relates his meeting with Miss Kenton at the end of the story, he tells it after the fact, a day afterward. The intervening falling action—what would constitute Day Five—is not presented in the narrative; we are left to imagine Stevens wandering around on the day after his meeting with Miss Kenton, having ultimately failed in both expressing his feelings and attaining any deep intimacy with another person.

It is clear that Miss Kenton has married the wrong man. Stevens notes that her passionate nature seems to have dissipated, and that her expression often seems to be one of sadness. When Miss Kenton voices regret at not spending her life with Stevens, it makes him realize how much better it would have been for both of them if they had been the ones to marry. It is at this point that Stevens tells us that his heart is breaking—an astounding revelation from a character who gives virtually no evidence of any emotion at all during the course of the novel.

Stevens finally breaks down during the evening when he is sitting on the pier, reaching at last the realization that he has deluded himself throughout his entire life. He finally questions aloud the use of being loyal to someone who used bad judgment, and finally sees how it may be foolish to completely accept someone else's judgment in place of one's own. Indeed, Stevens suddenly realizes that such blind loyalty may not be very dignified after all. It is in this part of the novel that Stevens's role—his mask as a perfect, poised butler —crumbles, and his real self—an sad, disillusioned man—takes over the story.

The man next to Stevens cheers him up by telling him not to look back or focus on regret and lost opportunity so much. Finally, Stevens comforts himself with the thought that there is dignity in the fact that he willingly sacrificed other things in life in order to devote himself to Lord Darlington. Small as this comfort may be, it seems enough for Stevens, who then tells us about his plans to improve his skills at bantering in an attempt to better serve his new employer. It is not clear, in the end, the extent to which Stevens realizes he has deceived himself. After all, as he never has known anything outside of his own limited existence, it may be difficult, if not impossible, for him to fully appreciate what he has missed, just as someone who is born blind would never miss seeing color. Indeed, despite its slightly optimistic ending, The Remains of the Day remains, on the whole, a tragic story of regret and missed opportunity.