‘The Remains of the Day’ [Kazuo Ishiguro]: Essay Five [“A-” grading, 2001/2002]

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Chris Larham’s essay on The Remains of the Day (“A-” grading, 2001/2002) can be opened in a print-friendly text document format here
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“Illustrate and discuss the presentation and the role of Mr Farraday with close reference to any two episodes of your choice.”

{Essay CONTENTS: Episode one: catalyst for Stevens’ self-development; Counterpoint within theme of disguise; Communication contrast with Stevens; American symbol; Episode two: Mr and Mrs Wakefield’s arrival at Darlington Hall; Genuine character; Embodiment of contemporary ideas; Use of interrogative mood; Forcefulness; Conclusion.}

Mr Farraday is introduced to us early on in the novel, with Stevens relating the reasons behind his journey – Mr Farraday was the man who prompted Stevens to undertake his trip, saying, “Why don’t you take the car and drive off somewhere for a few days? You look like you could make good use of a break.” This is clearly one of Mr Farraday’s roles in the novel: the man who opens the door for Stevens’ reminiscences and self-development.[^]

The theme of disguise is conveyed neatly in this episode. Whereas Mr Farraday is presented as a man who says what’s on his mind, Stevens tries to find ‘professional’ motives for his eventual acceptance of Mr Farraday’s proposal – Stevens cannot be true to himself.[^]

Mr Farraday and Stevens don’t appear to be on the same wavelength when it comes to communication, ably demonstrated by Stevens’ inept ‘bantering’ skills. Mr Farraday is used as a vehicle by Ishiguro to highlight Stevens’ deficient communication abilities, shown when he makes Stevens uncomfortable by jokily remarking, “My, my, Stevens. A lady-friend. And at your age.”

Through his introduction of bantering to Stevens, Mr Farraday indirectly highlights another theme of the novel – Stevens’ search for ‘dignity’, an abstract noun that provides a large amount of pondering for Stevens. It is Stevens’ belief that he must master ‘bantering’ which paves the way for a cringe-inducingly poor attempt at relatively spontaneous interaction. The embarrassingly irrelevant ‘witticism’“More like swallows than crows, I would have said, sir. From the migratory aspect” – in response to Mr Farraday’s, “I suppose it wasn’t you making that crowing noise this morning, Stevens?”, serves to underline the gap in conversational ‘levels’.[^]

In this scene, Mr Farraday is portrayed as somebody who would treat their butler on an equal level, if only Stevens were capable of that. Mr Farraday is an American symbol, in stark contrast to the English symbol, Stevens. The easy-going, extrovert nature of Americans is stereotyped against the typical, stiff-upper-lip Englishman.[^]

Another episode in the novel that furthers our understanding of Mr Farraday’s role occurs with the arrival of Mr and Mrs Wakefield at Darlington Hall, coming to inspect their Boston-society’s friend’s latest ‘acquisition’.[^]

Mr Farraday is presented as being very pleased with his purchase, showing it off to his mates – Stevens reports that he “would often catch various American exclamations of delight coming from whichever part of the house they had arrived at.” It seems to me that Mr Farraday is a more ‘genuine’ character – more believable – than Stevens, as he is willing to express emotion.[^]

A readiness to embrace emotion and stand up for what he believes comes across when Farraday directly challenges Stevens with the statement, “Mrs Wakefield, Stevens, was convinced you never worked here until I hired you… Made me look pretty much a fool, as you can imagine.” He repeats the adjective “mock” in his relation of Mrs Wakefield’s comments, building up the potential discomfort for Stevens. This isn’t a tactic that Lord Darlington would have used – he would have preferred to tiptoe around the subject. Thus, Mr Farraday is again used by Ishiguro to highlight themes in the novel as a whole: “American/English contrast” and “Contemporary ideas Vs ‘Old-fashioned’ views”.[^]

Underlining the gulf in communication skills possessed by Mr Farraday and Stevens, Mr Farraday uses a straight-to-the-point interrogative mood“I mean to say, Stevens, this is a genuine… That’s what I wanted, isn’t that what I have?” – to which Stevens, typically evasively, replies, “I venture to say you do, sir.”[^]

I thought that it was interesting that Stevens used his ‘Englishness’ as an excuse to Mr Farraday’s, “But dammit, Stevens, why did you tell her such a tale?” Mr Farraday’s forcefulness leads Stevens to fall back on a major part of his identity as an excuse, “I mean to say, sir, that it is not customary in England for an employee to discuss his past employers.”[^]

All in all, Mr Farraday is presented as being an open and honest character who knows what he wants. He speaks his mind, and stands up for what he believes. His main roles in the novel are intrinsically linked with Stevens – he is an American symbol (in contrast to Stevens, an English butler symbol); he introduces ‘bantering’, a concept that baffles Stevens; he prompts Stevens to go on his journey; and has his contemporary ideas juxtaposed with Stevens’ “reluctance to change too much of the old ways.” Through Mr Farraday, Ishiguro is able to further some of the key themes in the novel, namely: communication; disguise; and dignity.[^]

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34-year-old father of three wonderful children [William, Seth, and Alyssa]. Works as an Assistant Technical Officer in the Sterile Services Department of Treliske Hospital, Cornwall. Enjoys jogging, web design, being a bit of a geek, and supporting Arsenal FC. Obtained a BA degree in English from the University of Bolton in 2008, and has continued to gain qualifications in a diverse range of subjects thereafter.

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