The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

In a noble English household, where the banquets are prepared by loyal servants and consumed by mighty statesmen, a butler with his reminiscences of the war period serves us the essence of servitude and its quiet assistance to history. In a nice, neat world that he inhabits, the schedule is set and its boundaries established; his freedom ends where his master’s expectations begin. The unpredictable is for others to handle and the fog surrounding decisions is dispersed without his helping hand. Within these simple rules, life can easily be fulfilled.

Like silver and plates, everything has its order and all is just a matter of keeping its position. Diminished display of thoughts is a job requirement, in his case internalized to such a degree that no human interaction can be but a useful tool for improving professional skills. Only little contentments of his work achievements constitute his reality, leaving behind all vagueness and sorrow. In a dull, complacent state like this, there is no room for doubt, changes of course and no room for freedom.

I don’t recall many so pleasant and readable metaphors for the limitations of mind. Even if one chooses to obey orders to make a living (as we all do to some extent) and finds certain joy in being a shadow of another one’s willpower, he is still not excused of responsibility. Not making your own decisions is quite similar to making them. Putting general morals concerning others aside, the saddest result were the butler’s own missed opportunities.

14 thoughts on “The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

  1. You expressed the butlers dilemma perfectly. His characterization is rife with cruel irony. Though he is a slave, he still exercises freedom of choice in choosing to remain subordinate.


  2. Thank you very much! I agree, unfortunately he had a choice, but it’s still almost easier to feel sorry for him than to blame him. I liked it best how little rays of awareness got to him from time to time, but since it was him who processed them, they had different effect than one would imagine.


  3. This looks like a good book. In essence we are all servants as we work for someone. We have choices. We do have the options of jumping onto opportunites, though. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 Marsha 🙂


  4. I’ve seen it so long ago that I can’t remember much about it, but I do remember that I liked it a lot as well:)


  5. Thank you very much for stopping by and reading it:) You’re right, we do have choices, there’s a difference between a slave and a servant. Though it’s often smaller than I’d like to imagine:)


  6. Thank you for following my blog. I remember reading Remains of the Day in college around the time the film came out (1993) and how different the film was to the book. But that is most often the case. Thanks for reminding me of such a wonderful book.


  7. Thank you for returning the visit and for such a nice comment. It is my pleasure of course!
    Now I really have to see the film as you are not the first one to mention it. I remember the vibe of it (I’ve watched it so long ago) and at least that felt quite similar to the book.. Well, at least there’s no worries of suffering from repetitive boredom when the film is different:)


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