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Rns of the Day

In: English and Literature

Submitted By irockmore
Words 730
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Please refer to the accompanying background notes on this theme to prepare for your classroom discussion.
Subsuming the personal to the professional identity
The novel presents Stevens as having subsumed his personal identity within his professional identity. Consider the following extracts and determine how they serve to present Steven’ views about identity to us.

Read the following extracts from the Prologue. Consider how Stevens views his errors- are the errors he has made in his life only attributable to a faulty staff plan? Note how he brings up Miss Kenton- what rationale does he give for seeking her out- personal or professional?

As so often occurs in these situations, I had become blind to the obvious- that is until pondering over the implications of Miss Kenton’s letter finally opened my eyes to the simplest truth: that these small errors of recent months have derived from nothing more sinister than a faulty staff plan.
So it was in this instance; that is to say, my receiving the letter from Miss Kenton, containing as it did, along with its long, rather unrevealing passages, an unmistakable nostalgia for Darlington Hall, and- I am quite sure of this- distinct hints of her desire to return here, obliged me to see my staff plan afresh. Only then did it strike me that there was indeed a role that a further staff member could crucially play here; that it was, in fact, this very shortage that had been at the heart of all my recent troubles.

Clothing, identity, and dignity
Consider Stevens’ deliberations about his attire- what does his choice of clothing seem to imply about his identity? He describes his professional role as a butler in relation to clothing. What might this imply?

Dignity has to do crucially with a butler’s ability not to abandon the professional being he inhabits…the great butlers…wear their professionalism as a gentleman wears his suit.- Day One, Evening

I am in the possession of a number of splendid suits, kindly passed on to me over the years by Lord Darlington himself, and by various guests who have stayed in this house and had reason to be pleased with the standard of service here. Many of these suits are, perhaps, too formal for the purposes of the proposed trip, or else rather old-fashioned these days. But then there is one lounge suit, passed on to me in 1931 or 1932 by Sir Edward Blair – practically brand new at the time and almost a perfect fit – which might well be appropriate for evenings in the lounge or dining room of any guest houses where I might lodge. What I do not possess, however, is any suitable travelling clothes – that is to say, clothes in which I might be seen driving the car – unless I were to don the suit passed on by the young Lord Chalmers during the war, which despite being clearly too small for me, might be considered ideal in terms of tone. I calculated finally that my savings would be able to meet all the costs I might incur, and in addition, might stretch to the purchase of a new costume. I hope you do not think me unduly vain with regard to this latter matter; it is just that one never knows when one might be obliged to give out that one is from Darlington Hall, and it is important that one be attired at such times in a manner worthy of one’s position. –Prologue

At various points in the novel, Stevens is mistaken (or fancies that he’s mistaken) for a gentleman due to the clothes he is wearing. How does this sit with the earlier discussion of professional identity as something which a great butler ‘puts on’?

The landlady…appears to regard me as a rather grand visitor on account of Mr Faraday’s Ford and the high quality of my suit. –Day One, Evening

You can tell a true gentleman from a false one that’s just dressed in finery. Take yourself, sir. It’s not just the cut of your clothes, nor is it even the fine way you’ve got of speaking. There’s something else that marks you out as a gentleman.. –Day Three, Evening

We will develop these ideas in greater detail when we consider the theme of Dignity in ROTD. Much of Steven’s conflict of identity stems from his attitude towards dignity.…...

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