“It is all very well, in these changing times, to adapt one’s work to take in duties not traditionally within one’s realm; but bantering is of another dimension altogether. For one thing, how would one know for sure that at any given moment a response of the bantering sort is truly what is expected? One need hardly dwell on the catastrophic possibility of uttering a bantering remark only to discover it wholly inappropriate.”
– Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
This is from my second reading for British history class. I had tried Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go recently and didn’t finish it, but this (more renowned) novel of his is really good so far. It’s in the form of a 1956 travelogue by Mr. Stevens, the butler of Darlington Hall, during his road trip in the English countryside.
Overall, the characterization of Mr. Stevens is well-done, and it cracked me up to read of his attempts to reply with “witticisms” to his American employer’s jokes (but as for his characterization…why are Americans always portrayed as informal and jokey?). Some may see Mr. Stevens as paranoid, but I feel the same way sometimes, truly terrified of having possibly said the wrong thing!
The book makes me even more depressed about the class system, though. It seems like Mr. Stevens feels like he has to constantly prove himself worthy and constantly maintain “dignity.” And I can see how somebody in his position could come to feel undignified or ridiculous, which is sadder still.
It feels so long since I last posted! Since school started, most of my reading time has been for school. I read on the bus, at school, and at home, but there is always more… Anyways, I managed to squeeze in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and The Hobbit (still re-reading). For British history class, I also read E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India.
Mrs. Moore was, to me, the main character of that novel. I don’t know that I have ever read a book (apart from Miss Marple) where an elderly lady takes on such a huge role, and Mrs. Moore is even more unique because she does not actually “take on” any role. She philosophizes, she talks, she visits India, but she doesn’t do anything.
At the same time, I felt that she was the reason the relationships between the other characters had substance to them. She has some strange influence over them, which is never fully explained. Dr Aziz, a young Indian doctor, befriends her, but it is never described exactly what they have in common or see in each other. Finally, her influence causes one of the characters to make a vastly important decision, where another character’s honor and career are at stake.
I’ve got to say that, for all that, I did not like Mrs. Moore (or the book, for that matter). Her “powers” were vague and unsubstantiated, and I felt like the book promotes turning to people (e.g. Mrs. Moore), instead of God, for ultimate spiritual and moral guidance. Also, it doesn’t help that Mrs. Moore takes a sort of indifferent view of morals altogether and hardly cares what happened or might have happened to her potential daughter-in-law. This was what particularly stopped me from warming up to her character.