Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

David Galef

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg

Committee Member

Adam Rzepka


In Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, Mr. Stevens immerses himself in his work as a butler until it becomes his identity. In Stevens’s quest to be superlative at his job, he accepts his role in society, adopting an extreme view of dignity that constrains him rather than providing him a sense of self. Although his interpretation of dignity and obedience to the social hierarchy helps him fulfill his desire to be a butler of the highest order, it hampers his development as a person. In discussing Stevens, critics have focused on his desire to fulfill his duties as the perfect butler; however, a key aspect not discussed is the British class system’s role in his decisions and how it affects his view of dignity. Stevens shapes this view through his place in the British social hierarchy, as he believes that dignity means never wavering from the role given to one in society. Through David Cannadine’s The Rise and Fall of Class in Britain (1999) and Lucy Lethbridge’s Servants: A Downstairs View of Twentieth-century Britain (2013), this thesis integrates ideas on the British hierarchy and the life of servants to understand the role they have in Stevens’s choice to have his identity revolve around his career. Raymond Williams’s notes on individuals, careers, and society are used to discuss how his decisions affect each aspect leading to Stevens’s mental stagnation and the damage society incurs when individuals adhere too closely to the status quo simply to maintain the hierarchy.

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