The Remains of the Day Book Summary, by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Overview

The Remains of the Day is a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. It tells the story of Stevens, an English butler working at Darlington Hall. At the start of the novel, he is encouraged to take a vacation by his employer, Mr. Farraday, an American gentleman who believes Stevens needs a break from his duties. Stevens believes that taking such a trip would be beneficial for him and so he agrees to go on vacation with Mr. Farraday’s blessing and permission to visit Miss Kenton in West England after twenty years since she left her job as maid at Darlington Hall because she got married which was not what Stevens wanted her to do back then as he had feelings for her even though they were just friends (he thought).

The book is about Stevens’ trip to visit Miss Kenton. He’s reflecting on his life and trying to figure out what he wants in the future. In this passage, he describes what makes a butler great by referencing the Hayes Society that defines a great butler as someone who maintains their professionalism no matter what happens.

For instance, at a 1923 convention, Stevens had to manage his dying father as well as the guests. Ultimately he decided that it was more important to attend to the guests and missed his father’s passing. Looking back on this moment, Stevens has pride in himself for being able to focus on work even though he wishes that he could have been with his father during those final moments. Even small anecdotes show this – like when Stevens fires two Jewish maids because Lord Darlington told him too even though it wasn’t in line with what Stevens wanted.

The novel is about Stevens and his relationship with Miss Kenton. She was hired when he was already working at the estate, but she became a substitute for his father after he died. When Miss Kenton’s marriage fell apart, Stevens saw it as an opportunity to see her again. However, twenty years before that time, they had a chance to get together – which he missed out on because of pride.

Stevens finds his car stuck in the mud. He spends the night with a family and talks about how he met dignitaries without revealing that he is, in fact, a butler. The next day, Stevens makes it to Darlington Hall where Dr. Carlisle finally figures out that Stevens is actually a butler at Darlington Hall.

Stevens finally meets the ghost lady. He has plans to bring her back to Darlington Hall, but she says she’s going back with her husband because he’s always been there for her and Stevens is too late.

Prologue – Darlington Hall (July 1956)

Stevens, the narrator of this novel, is a butler to Mr. Farraday who is on his way to America for five weeks in August and September. Stevens has been given permission by Mr. Farraday to take an expedition during that time and he has planned it out for some time now.

Stevens is not sure if he should take his employer up on the offer of a vacation. He does not think it would be worth it since he has been working at Darlington Hall for many years and was comfortable with that routine. However, Mr. Farraday convinces him to go by saying that Stevens could use some time away from the house and even offers to pay for gas money so that Stevens can visit Miss Kenton who used to work as a maid in Darlington Hall but hasn’t heard from her in seven years. In this passage, there are subtle hints that suggest she wants him back at the house which is why he decides to take advantage of this opportunity and convince her to return home

Stevens has been having trouble with his work lately. He thinks that he’s made a lot of small mistakes recently, and may make bigger mistakes in the future. Right now, there are only four people working at Hundreds Hall – Mrs. Clements, the new housekeeper; Rosemary and Agnes, two girls who help her; and Stevens himself. But Stevens thinks they’re not enough staff members to keep things running smoothly. The return of Miss Kenton would save them from certain disaster.

The Remains of the Day Book Summary, by Kazuo Ishiguro

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