The Remains of the Day Essay - Critical Essays

Kazuo Ishiguro

Critical Evaluation

Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, his third novel, received the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989. The novel represents a departure for Ishiguro, whose previous novels, A Pale View of Hills (1982) and An Artist of the Floating World (1986), are set in his native Japan. The Remains of the Day is Ishiguro’s first novel set in his adopted country of England (to which his family moved when Ishiguro was five years old).

The narrative of The Remains of the Day is complex, leading to several questions. One question is, Does the story take place over six days in July, 1956, as Stevens drives through the south of England, or does the novel cover nearly forty years? The events of the past are all filtered through the memory of Stevens, and his memory sometimes proves faulty. Additionally, the novel crosses genres, displaying elements of tragedy, social realism, historical realism, social criticism, and fiction of manners. The filter of Stevens’s memory makes the novel more a form of psychological realism than of any other category. The narrative takes the form of a diary, with Stevens recording his thoughts either at the close of each day or at breaks in his travels. This allows the reader to see changes in Stevens’s thoughts on certain issues, and to see changes in his memories. The “diary” has an implicit reader, whom Stevens is addressing. He makes it clear several times that his reader is a servant, much like himself.

The novel’s title, too, invites...

(The entire section is 627 words.)