The novel "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro is a novel of self reflection. The main character of the novel, Mr. Stevens, is at the end of his life and at the end of his career. He has the uncommon opportunity to go on a road trip to visit a former acquaintance. The road trip leaves him with plenty of time to think and reminisce. Mr. Stevens led the life of a successful butler of a distinguished household. His memories show him that the life that he though was so fulfilling turned out to be a bitter disappointment. At the completion of his journey, Mr. Stevens is left pondering about his entire life and what he would like to do with the rest of it. At the end of his trip, before returning to his home, Mr. Stevens decides that his friend's advice made sense and that there was no point in being remorseful about one's past. " Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of the remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives had not turned out quite as we might have wished? The hard reality is, surely, that for the likes of you and me , there is little choice other than to leave our fate, ultimately, in the hands of those great gentlemen at the hub of this world who employ our services. What is the point of in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and me at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that is in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment". Mr. Stevens was under the impression that a successful and contented life could be achieved by being a great and dignified butler. It was to this goal that he devoted his entire time, energy, and spirit. His life was his job. By being the perfect manservant, Mr. Stevens though that he was making his own contribution to the world. If the people he served were satisfied and then they continued on to do something of importance, Mr. Stevens had been a part of that and therefore could be seen as responsible for some of the greater things to occur in this world. As he later thinks to himself A great butler can only be, surely, one who can point to his years of service and say that he has applied his talents to serving a great gentleman - and through the latter, to serving humanity. In his reflections, Mr. Stevens tries to convince himself of the stupendous ramifications of his actions and the actions of the gentlemen he served. He reminisces about the well polished silver in his house. ... the state of the silver had made a small, but significant contribution towards the easing of relations between Lord____ and Herr____ that evening. Something so trivial, he was sure would affect the rest of the world. The satisfaction of being able to say with some reason that one s efforts, in however a modest way, compromise a contribution to the course of history. As he strolls down Memory Lane, Mr.Stevens often finds himself remembering things that were not as dignified as he would have liked them to be. He has to convince himself that the events that occurred in his past were indeed as great as he would have liked to remember them as being. He often avoids mentioning that he worked for Lord Darlington because of certain rumors going around concerning the political actions of his former employer. He wants to hide away anything remotely bad and pretend that they never happened. At times in the novel, Mr.Stevens shows off his position to others in order to make himself important. He lives vicariously through the lives of his gentlemen employers. He tells people he meets that he has a hand in
s international affairs. I never held any high office, mind you. Any influence I exerted was in a strictly unofficial capacity. In order to justify his non-participation in worldly affairs, he claims to be involved through the actions of the men he served. Mr.Stevens gives his life over to his vocation. He misses out on so much of life - all for the sake of being a great butler. When his father is on his deathbed, he is unable to tend to him because he has his obligations in running the house. He denies himself the pleasure of taking a stroll around the pond for fear of dirtying his clothing and bringing embarrassment upon the name of his house. He will not even grant himself the right to love. At the end of his trip, when he sees his acquaintance and co-worker, Miss Kenton, after many years, she tells him that she often imagines the life that she could have had with him. This information ..provoked a certain degree of sorrow within [him]. . . .at that moment, [his] heart was breaking. Mr.Stevens never let himself off duty and denied himself a life of happiness because of it. At the completion of his trip, Mr. Stevens' life is in a shambles. He realizes that the life he led was not at all satisfactory. He remembered once stating his lifetime goal, " My vocation will not be fulfilled until I have done all that I can to see his lordship through the great tasks that he has set himself. The day his lordship s work is complete,...content in the knowledge that he has done all anyone could ever reasonably ask of him, ...only on that day will I be able to call myself a well-contented man." But after much reflection, he sees that the life of his employer was not as great as he would have liked. It is hardly my fault if his lordship s life and work have turned out today to look, at best, a sad waste - and it is quite illogical that I should feel any regret or shame on my own account. The truth is that these revelations cause Mr. Stevens to realize what a waste his life has been and how much more he could have done with it. Lord Darlington wasn' t a bad man....And at least he had the privilege of being able to say at the end of his life that he made his own mistakes.....He chose a certain path in life, it proved to be a misguided one, but there, he chose it, he can say that at least. As for myself, I cannot even claim that. You see, I trusted. I trusted in his lordship' s wisdom. All those who served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can t even say I made my own mistakes. Really - one has to ask oneself - what dignity is there in that? His entire life was spent becoming the dignified and great butler he thought he should be, but in the end he realized that he himself had no identity. His name was as good as the name of the house he came from. He returns to his house, with all these discoveries behind him, only to continue in the very same way. Not because he does not want to change, but because he does not know how.