‘The Remains of the Day’ [Kazuo Ishiguro]: Essay Six [19 out of 25, 2001/2002]


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Timed The Remains of the Day Essay:
“How does Ishiguro elicit an intense emotional response from the reader?”

{Timed essay CONTENTS: Dramatic irony to elicit frustration; Bathos to elicit sorrow; Parallelism to elicit sympathy; Tautological language to elicit annoyance; Death of Stevens Snr to elicit disbelief and admiration; Conclusion.}

Ishiguro uses many techniques to elicit an intense emotional response from the reader. For example, there is a wide employment of dramatic irony: we often have more insight than the narrator, Stevens, into his own experiences. This is shown when Miss Kenton declares that she has been proposed to – we make the link that she wants Stevens to say “Don’t marry him, marry me”, and sweep her off her feet; unfortunately Stevens does not make this inference. Thus, the reader feels frustrated at Stevens’ short-sightedness and lack of perception.[^]

Ishiguro also uses bathos to leave the reader feeling sad and deflated. This is demonstrated by the fact that we know there could have been a relationship between Stevens and Miss Kenton, if only Stevens could have let her in. After building up the scene in the pantry where Miss Kenton prises Stevens’ book out of his hands, there are two ways it could develop – a loving, passionate embrace, or, as happens, Stevens rejecting her overtures and dismissing her from ‘his’ domain (and, effectively, his life, for many years).[^]

Parallelism in the novel is used, as Stevens has another chance to make a go of things in the final chapter, only to let the chance pass him by. At this stage of the novel, the reader is likely to feel sympathy for Stevens, as his emotional ineptitude renders him incapable of taking his destiny in his own hands and fulfilling his dreams.[^]

Ishiguro characterises Stevens in such a way that the reader will have strong views and emotions about him, even if the butler himself is determined to maintain his professional, robotic veneer. His perpetual use of unclear, tautological language“I venture to say you do, sir” – leaves the reader annoyed at his lifelong tentativeness.[^]

The death of Stevens Snr during the conference at Darlington Hall highlights Stevens’ inability to deal with emotional turmoil. The reader is likely to shake their head in disbelief as Stevens represses this traumatic event and ‘carries on regardless’. A certain amount of admiration for his dedication to the job will also be felt – admirable commitment amidst personal tragedy.[^]

In conclusion, Ishiguro uses many literary and linguistic techniques to elicit various emotions from the reader: frustration; sadness; sympathy; annoyance; disbelief; and admiration, to name a few. The reader is left to make their own inferences – Ishiguro puts things across both implicitly and explicitly – and by working such things out for themselves, the emotional rollercoaster of the book will be heightened.[^]

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Forty-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, learning programming languages, 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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Posted in A Level English [A2]

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