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Old 03-20-2012, 09:43 PM   #18
Bookworm_Girl
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I finished this book awhile ago and have been digesting it. I am glad I read the book, but I can't say that I especially enjoyed it. My initial reaction was much like issybird's post so that is why I have been thinking about it for awhile. I didn't like Stevens very much. I wasn't sure why Miss Kenton had romantic feelings for him. He frustrated me for his lack of inaction and stoic acceptance of everything happening around him and to him. Although sometimes I felt like his voice was a mask to what he really thought and felt. It was rather depressing to identify with his loss and regrets and feelings of what could have been. I did like the last chapter of the book, although quite tragic, because finally he shows emotion with his broken heart after meeting Miss Kenton and expression of tears to a stranger on the pier. I also liked the contrast with the stranger who had been a butler (less dignified, of a not-so-grand house) but had a content retirement to look forward to in the remains of his day. Evening's the best part of the day, after all. I wonder if Stevens returned to Darlington Hall and perfected the art of bantering for his American employer and was happier, but I suspect not. Can you picture Stevens ever retiring? Not me. His career as a butler is his whole identity. I also plan to watch the movie sometime soon because I think I might like Stevens better when acted on the big screen and see more of a connection between him & Miss Kenton. I just didn't want to watch the movie until I gave the book some serious thought.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Asawi View Post
I'm not sure what to think of his emotions though, since he hardly admits to having any. No happiness, no anger, nothing... Stiff upper lip, show nothing...
Asawi, I liked the description that Stevens gave about the beauty of the British landscape because I thought it represented how he thought someone with dignity should behave and express their emotions.

Quote:
What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels not need to shout it. In comparison, the sorts of sights offered in such places as Africa and America, though undoubtedly very exciting, would, I am sure, strike the objective viewer as inferior on account of their unseemly demonstrativeness.
Quote:
Originally Posted by fantasyfan View Post
There is another way we can see why Stevens is what he is.

When we see the limitations of Lord Darlington, it would seem that the idea of unthinking service to the 'gentleman" becomes ludicrous. Oddly, I don't think that was such an idea was necessarily all that far-fetched in the time the book's events unfold..... So Stevens can be seen as one who is making a life statement {however deluded} that epitomizes the values in the world he knew and that most others of that era accepted as being valid. The concept of "dignity" was the nearest approach he could make to being a "gentleman".
fantasyfan, I think this concept is represented by Stevens's irritation with Harry Smith when he is stranded in the small village of Moscombe. Harry has strong political opinions and feels that every free man and woman has the right to such opinions and to strive for dignity because of how much they had sacrificed in the great world wars of that time. Dignity is not just for gentlemen, he says. Stevens's opinion is quite contrary:

Quote:
There is, after all, a real limit to how much ordinary people can learn and know, and to demand that each and every one of them contribute 'strong opinions' to the great debates of the nation cannot, surely, be wise. It is, in any case, absurd that anyone should presume to define a person's 'dignity' in these terms.
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