Imitation and Deception in The Remains of the Day

Randall Bass, Assistant Professor of English, Georgetown University

In one scene in Ishiguro's novel, Mr. Faraday, the new owner of the house, is giving a tour to some houseguests, the Wakefields. At one point, Mrs. Wakefield lingers behind to ask Stevens, the narrator, a question about the authenticity of the house's ornamentation.

"I was crossing the hall under the impression that the party had gone out to explore the grounds--when I saw that Mrs. Wakefield had remained behind and was closely examining the stone arch that frames the doorway into the dining room. As I went past, muttering a quiet 'Excuse me, madam,' she turned and said:

'Oh, Stevens, perhaps you're the one to tell me. This arch here looks seventeenth century, but isn't it the case that it was built quite recently? Perhaps during Lord Darlington's time?'

'It is possible, madam.'

'It's very beautiful. But it is probably a kind of mock period piece done only a few years ago. Isn't that right?'

'I'm not sure, madam, but that is certainly possible.'

Then lowering her voice, Mrs. Wakefield had said: 'But tell me, Stevens, what was this Lord Darlington like? Presumably you must have worked for him.'

'I didn't, madam, no.'

'Oh, I thought you did. I wonder why I thought that.'

Mrs. Wakefield turned back to the arch and putting her hand to it, said: 'So we don't know for certain then. Still, it looks to me like it's mock. Very skilful, but mock."

In this passage, which comes at almost exactly the halfway point of the book, two significant things are being revealed to the reader: the idea of imitation (i.e. that things are not what they seem at Darlington Hall) and the problem of Stevens's denial that he ever worked for Lord Darlington. How are the two ideas connected? Is this conversation be a kind of turning point in the book?

Are there other places in the novel describing blatant acts of imitation or impersonation?

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