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The Constant Butler: Role Strain and Role Confusion in Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day
Halmstad University, School of Humanities (HUM).
2012 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

 Although various approaches to psychotherapy have been applied to The Remains of the Day in the aforementioned analyses, none have linked it to Role Theory, as defined in the context of Psychodrama. However if the abnormal importance that Stevens attributes to becoming a perfect butler is taken into account, The Remains of the Day is practically saturated with textual evidence of how social role imbalance is the source of Stevens’ dilemmas both in the narrated and the narrating time. Although whether it was Ishiguro’s intention to create this effect is unclear, the setting of the novel in a world that is transitioning from the war eras to modernity moreover fits in all too well with the sociological aspects of Role Theory. In brief, it has been proposed that changes in society that render certain social roles obsolete put pressure on the individuals that hold these roles to either adapt or renew themselves in pace with societal developments. Stevens, being a butler, would have felt such strain acutely, being that the decline of the great British houses over the aforementioned period led to a sharp decline in domestic service professions at the time. (Lee, 1988)Drawing upon both the Psycho-dramatic and the Sociologic aspects of Role Theory, this paper aims first of all to propose that Ishiguro’s main character in The Remains of the Day suffers from an over-developed occupational role, which has eliminated or at the very least marginalized his other social roles. Secondly it will argue that the latter’s’ reflections that are brought about over the course of the plot are a consequence of role strain, which as a palpable yet indirect plot element forces him realize that his occupational role is slowly but steadily becoming a thing of the past. In facing such a fate, he is in turn forced to confront how his extreme commitment to his job has left the rest of his life empty, for which he begins to look back at and reconsider the roles that he could have had but neglected in life. On top of outlining this approach to rationalizing the events of the novel, the paper will theorize upon that in choosing to tell such a story, Ishiguro is promoting a view of the world as a place in constant motion, in which, like the post-modernist perspective, there are no set or universal values that withstand the test of time. Juxtaposed against the satirical undertones of the novel, as well as against the time period in which it is set, this statement will in turn be interpreted as critique against the destructive qualities of conventions in society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. , 18 p.
Keyword [en]
butler, Kazuo Ishiguro, role theory, role strain, relationships, psychotherapy
National Category
Languages and Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-18011OAI: diva2:534310
Subject / course
Humanities, Theology
Available from: 2012-07-02 Created: 2012-06-15 Last updated: 2012-07-02Bibliographically approved

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Altgård, Anton
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