“…a butler who is forever attempting to formulate his own strong opinions on his employer’s affairs is bound to lack one quality essential in all good professionals: namely, loyalty. . . . Indeed, I would be among the last to advocate bestowing one’s loyalty carelessly on any lady or gentleman who happens to employ one for a time. However, if a butler is to be of any worth to anything or anybody in life, there must surely come a time when he ceases his searching; a time when he must say to himself: This employer embodies all that I find noble and admirable…” 
At the end of his three decades serving at Darlington Hall, which an American has purchased from the English family, in the comfort of his new employer’s car, Stevens embarks on a week-long road trip in the country. During the sojourn that takes him off-the-beaten-path through Salisbury, Somerset, and Compton, the butler looks back in his career, which demonstrates exemplary professionalism, and reassures himself that he has served humanity by serving a great gentleman.
A great butler can only be, surely, one who can point to his years of service and say that he has applied his talents to serving a great gentleman—and through the latter, to serving humanity. 
. . . who believe that the sort of idealism prevalent amongst our generation, namely the notion that we butlers should aspire to serve those great gentlemen who further the cause of humanity. 
Lurking in the fray of his consciousness is doubt of Lord Darlington’s true nature and his role in the Treaty of Versailles. That the house will stand empty, in fact, for the first time since it was built while he’s away, makes Stevens feel reluctant about the trip. He will stay and attend to all the responsibilities were it not that he does have important professional reasons in respect to the staffing problems. He is to meet Darlington’s former house keeper, one Miss Kenton, who conveys her thought of returning to work. Sudden missive from Miss Kenton, who ponders with regret decisions made in the far-off past provokes in him a rueful nostalgia, although the prospect of seeing her fills him with exhilaration.
‘Do you realize, Mr Stevens, how much it would have meant to me if you had thought to share your feelings last year? . . . Do you realize how much it would have helped me? Why, Mr Stevens, why, why, why do you always have to pretend? 
Stevens’ rhetorical inquiry of what makes a great butler, which demands formal and proper diction that Ishiguro always exemplifies, mandates a dignity that suppresses Stevens’ individuality. In order to achieve this greatness, which is no more than will-o’-the-wisp, he denies and leaves unexpressed his personal feelings and beliefs, even love. He is deprived of any intimacy with anybody in the book, or worse, his life. As his caters to his employer’s interests, he inhabits the role of an imperturbable butler whose pursuit of refinery has completely taken over his personal life. Coiled with a rueful nostalgia, he reflects upon the loss of his father in his absence with the consolation that he might have achieved a modest degree of dignity in the face of contingent pressures.
‘Miss Kenton, please don’t think me unduly improper in not ascending to see my father in his deceased condition just at this moment. You see, I know my father would have wished me to carry on just now.” 
‘Indeed, why should I deny it? For all its sad associations, whenever I recall that evening today, I find I do so with a large sense of triumph.’ 
So misguided is his pursuit of dignity that Miss Kenton might have perceived her attempt to show affection toward him will be unrequited. The Remains of the Day explores of the sensation of memory that is forgone, memory that is only embedded in the mind. Stevens might not have expressed his shame but implicitly the novel delves into the loss of ideals and dreams.
245 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]