Is The Remains Of The Day Nostalgic For A Lost England Essay

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Is The Remains of the Day nostalgic for a lost England?

Kazuo Ishiguro’s contemporary novel The Remains of the Day was written in 1989. Written in the first person, the narrator Stevens is a kind, dutiful and loyal butler at Darlington Hall. Stevens recalls his past as butler for the original master; Lord Darlington a man that evokes Englishness, in a nostalgic manner about life in an estate that holds pride in English tradition. The novel is set in July1956, and Steven’s is the butler for an American called Farraday. In the year 1956 Britain was steering close towards war with Egypt over the closing of the Suez Canal. Britain’s post-war realisation is evident from the 'Suez Crisis’ and it shows that Britain could no longer command the consent from other world supremacies and did not hold a principal role in foreign affairs about Egypt. Britain was losing the colonisation that it so held complete control of. As Peter Childs says: ’Though the crisis is not in fact mentioned in Ishiguro's novel, this is itself both an index of the narrator's refusal to attend to what is going on around him and an example of how history has rendered his tra­ditional views of Englishness anachronistic.’ (Childs 1) Steven’s recollects his memories of the majority of his adult life under that he used to lead under Lord Darlington in the years 1930 to 1937 right in the middle of the two wars. The nostalgic manner of an England that is supposedly ‘lost’ to Stevens, in whom the novel is portraying during a period of great change and modernisation, is interesting as the author is Japanese. Ishiguro moved to England in 1960 and studied at the University of Kent. Considering the novel is set in a time six years before Ishiguro arrived in England it is incredibly accurate on how life was in that inter-war era. Great understanding and revising Britain in this period would have been vital for Ishiguro to create such a believable place such as Darlington Hall and the immensely typically English characters. It is important to understand the phrase ‘a lost England’ to create an argument and whether the novel actually is nostalgic of this. Some could argue that ‘A lost England’ defines the break down of the traditional English estate and the lack of heritage that occurred in the inter-war period. . At the time the novel was written, great houses like Darlington Hall were being taken over by foreign people In the novel The Remains of the Day an American, Farraday, takes control over Darlington Hall, once Lord Darlington, the traditional Englishman dies. In John Su’s book Ethics and Nostalgia in the Contemporary Novel, he states that ‘the decay of the English country estate in The Remains of the Day evokes a powerful yearning for lost national glory’ (Su 120). However, ‘a lost England’ is also argued to be the era when England was not industrialised and peace was profoundly important. In the novel it is clear that Ishiguro is portraying nostalgia of both of these arguments of what a ‘lost England’ is however, it is important to for the reader to ask themselves is the novel nostalgic as a whole? Or is the nostalgia purely driven from Stevens looking into the past? Analysing the novel as a whole the reader can clearly pinpoint certain moments and encounters that indicate nostalgia of a ‘lost England’ however, another argument is that Remains of the Day has often been misconstrued as purely nostalgic when the novel begins to use underlying political affairs; the Nazi involvement with Lord Darlington and other aristocrats and the British Appeasement politics. Lord Darlington, Stevens and Darlington Hall itself; symbolise ‘a lost England’, and ironically are the key portrayals of nostalgia. Finally therefore, one could argue The Remains of the Day is nostalgic for a ‘lost England’ but the reader must consider that recalling one’s past in an emotional way can present the reader with a nostalgic perspective of the text. The novel presents three main points of