The Revelation Of Mr. Stevens As Modern Tragic Hero
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is not until the end of the novel that the most important moment occurs. This reader can only fully understand the implications of past events by placing their awareness in the timeline for Mr. Stevens. His inability or unwillingness to act on either his feelings or his intelligence has led him to live a quiet, depressed life. The sense of duty he felt towards his employer as well his acceptance of historical and social traditions and customs has left him without the ability to act. As time passed by, his employer became more evil and the woman he loved wed another man, resulting in a life of quiet desperation. The most important moment in Mr. Stevens’ life is a devastating emotional climax that both the reader and the character experience simultaneously. This removes irony and transforms Ishiguro’s simple butler to a tragic modern figure with almost mythic dimensions.
This transformational moment begins at the moment Mr. Stevens decides, after much deliberation, to investigate the current status of the marriage with the former Mrs. Kenton. The language he uses, which has a propriety and quaintness to it, shows his emotional detachment. I just wanted to know if your treatment was unfair. This is a surface expression that lacks any deeper meaning. The phrase is meant to describe the reasons for Miss Kenton’s temporary separation from her husband. M. Stevens’s inability to maintain his studied reserve, even when he is so deeply hurt and disappointed at such a late age of his life, has a tragic undertone. In reality, he’s asking if she feels that her husband is mistreating her. But he really wants to know if a man has made her feel enough love to want to leave her husband and move to another. His response when he learns that her husband was not particularly abusive toward her continues the discipline. This is a response that is accompanied by raw emotions.
Miss Kenton notices that Stevens has a human side despite all his attempts to hide it. Her question requires that a follow up be done. It is impossible for him to have left the question unanswered. The question contains a certain amount of doubt about his intentions and distrust of whether he was being completely truthful. Unavoidable, a man who’s spent his whole life trying to earn trust by being truthful and steadfast in this belief will have to respond. He responds, but in an excruciatingly polite way, despite his emotions. Instead of telling the truth and being open about his feelings, he disguises them with a textual wasteland that he’s “rather puzzled as to why [her] is unhappy.”
Miss Kenton gives him a second chance, despite being fully aware of her own emotions, and knowing that he is also. She says “I’ve come to love” him after admitting her marriage isn’t based on uncontrollable passion and desire but more on mutual comfort and respect. She gives him a moment to silence, so that he can let loose of his suppressed desire. She only allows Mr. Stevens that one moment to be silent after hearing those words that are not inspiring of her devotion to him.
Seizing the moment is what seals his fate. Mr. Stevens may not have become the tragic hero of today if he had been able to overcome his fear and inaction due to all of those repressed feelings and a lifetime’s dedication to be something instead of someone. He lets the silence last long enough for Miss Kenton to fill it. She comes very close to confessing herself when she says that she has been thinking about the terrible mistake she made in her life. She does not admit it, but her confession is the worst words Mr. Stevens could ever hear: “There’s nothing you can do now.”
Mr. Stevens confesses fully. He should have told Miss Kenton about it, but instead he tells the reader. He becomes a modern tragedy hero when he says, “my heart broke.” He sacrificed his life for his duty but that duty didn’t sacrifice anything for himself. He has become the person that gives his all to achieve their ambitions but gains nothing from them being realized. Mr. Stevens is the perfect butler. His only real emotion is weeping. He has become the most flawed of all humans.