Table of Contents
2 Stevens' relation to Miss Kenton
3 Stevens' relation to his father
4 Stevens' relation to Lord Darlington
Kazuo Ishiguro's novel "The Remains of the Day" is about Stevens' life as a butler. With the help of his personal and professional relationships with the additional main characters – his father, his employer Lord Darlington and Miss Kenton, who he loved without knowing it– it shall be shown what Stevens' life was like, which course his life took and what reason there is at the end of his journey to ask himself what he has achieved and what remains of his life.
2. Stevens' relationship to Miss Kenton
Like his father before him, Stevens lives for his work and doesn't have a private life. His room resembles the cell of a monk and Miss Kenton's attempt to enliven it with flowers fails insofar that Stevens does not want any 'distractions' in his room [p.55]. Miss Kenton feels attracted to Stevens and wants to do something good for him. Stevens, not grateful in any way, criticizes her for addressing his father by his first name because he is not capable of interpersonal private communication that has nothing to do with his duty as a butler.
Miss Kenton in return tells Stevens that his father has a lot of tasks to do that he is not capable of doing anymore. It is not intended as a revenge for Stevens' harshness but shows that she is doing her job properly and that she feels concern about the weakness of Stevens' father, in contrast to Stevens who underestimates his father's age and disabilities and possibly does not notice them at all. Miss Kenton expresses herself in an unemotional way because she knows that it is the only kind of language Stevens is able to understand [p.62]. When Stevens reminds Miss Kenton to do some things more properly she gets angry [p.83]. By doing so he probably unconsciously seeks communication with other persons and especially with Miss Kenton but his only methods to do so are to provoke and contradict. Even when Miss Kenton says that she was wrong Stevens cannot agree and has to contradict
"Miss Kenton, I really cannot agree with you. You did wonders with that girl." [p.166].
She wants to provoke emotions in Stevens by saying
"It is very interesting, Mr Stevens. Very interesting you should have been so pessimistic about her. Because Lisa is a pretty girl, no doubt about it. And
I’ve noticed you have a curious aversion to pretty girls being on the staff [...]. Might it be that our Mr Stevens fears distraction? Can it be that our Mr Stevens is flesh and blood after all and cannot fully trust himself?" [p.164/165]
However, Stevens rejects the girl out of professional matters and, of course, contradicts Miss Kenton again by saying
"You know perfectly well that you are talking nonsense, Miss Kenton" [p.164].
Nevertheless it gives him a pleasant feeling to sit with Miss Kenton after work over a cup of cocoa and discuss certain matters. These events are certainly important for Miss Kenton to get into a conversation with Stevens, but for him they are an opportunity for a plain discussion of professional matters. She knows that an official meeting like this is the only chance to come near him. How contrary both characters are is shown best when Lord Darlington dismisses the Jewish servant girls. On the one hand there is Miss Kenton who is interested and cares about what is going on at Darlington Hall. She has her own opinions on these matters that she also shares with others, but is still committed to giving her best in her profession. She draws consequences for her own life to show her protest and doesn't say that these matters are none of her business
"I am warning you Mr Stevens, I will not continue to work in such a house. If my girls are dismissed, I will leave also." [p.157].
Stevens, on the other hand, is absolutely loyal towards his Lordship and acts like a machine
"Surely I don't have to remind you that our professional duty is not to our own foibles and sentiments, but to the wishes of our employer." [p.157].
Stevens condemns marriages among employees because that disturbs his well-organized staff plan
"I have always found such liasons a serious threat to the order in a house [...] and a good butler should always take this into account in his planning." [p.53].
A marriage could urge him to move beds - to have two beds in one room - or to grant the involved a day or two off which would pressure him into rearranging the staff-plan. He fears that his plan wouldn’t work properly and that his employer would then have reason to be dissatisfied with his service. Although he lives for his work and as a consequence for his Lordship he obviously isn't interested in preserving good personal relations, otherwise he would have fought for the two Jewish girls. Miss Kenton does not leave the house as she formerly stated because she loves her work and is still in hope to elicit emotions from Stevens. She often tries to find out if Stevens has any objections when she takes a day off to meet with Mr Benn
"'But I can see you are very unhappy about me going out tonight.'
'On the contrary, Miss Kenton.'"[p.226]
or if he is annoyed when she tells him that she will marry Mr Ben
"'Very well, if you must be rushing off, I shall just tell you that I accepted my aquaintance's proposal.'
'I beg your pardon, Miss Kenton?'
'His proposal of marriage.'
'Ah, is that so, Miss Kenton? Than may I offer you my congratulations.'
'Am I to take it [...] that after the many years of service I have given in this house, you have no more words to greet the news of my possible departure than those you have just uttered?'