Political Ideologies in Ishiguro's Remains of the the Day

There are at least two explicit statements of (contrasting) political ideology in Ishiguro's novel. The first comes when Stevens's car breaks down in a small town, and he engages that evening in a lively political discussion with the locals. At one point Mr. Harry Smith and Stevens discuss the topic of dignity. For Stevens, dignity is something intangible and innate, accessible to only a few who possess it. In contrast, Mr. Harry Smith thinks of dignity in quite another way:

That's what we fought Hitler for, after all. If Hitler had had things his way, we'd just be slaves now. The whole world would be a few masters and millions upon millions of slaves. And I don't need to remind anyone here, there's no dignity to be had in being a slave. That's what we fought for and that's what we won. We won the right to be free that no matter who you are, no matter if you're rich or poor, you're born free and you're born so you can express your opinion freely...That's what dignity's really about, if you'll excuse me, sir. (186)

The position is of course completely at odds with the Stevens' conception of dignity--despite the devastating implication for Stevens that "there's no dignity in being a slave."

Harry Smith's speech reminds Stevens of a related event that occurred two decades earlier, a scene where Lord Darlington embarrassed Stevens by putting him in the awkward position of answering complicated questions of foreign policy, in order to help prove that the "common" person was incapable of democratically legislating on the most important international matters. When he later apologizes he explains,

"It was really quite dreadful. But you see, Stevens, Mr. Spencer had to make a point to Sir Leonard. In fact, if it's any consolation, you did assist in demonstrating a very important point. Sir Leaonard had been talking a lot of that old-fashioned nonsense. About the will of the people being the wisest arbitrator...We're really so slow in this country to regonize when a thing's outmoded. Other great nations know full well that to meet the challenges of each new age means discarding old, sometimes well-love methods. Not so here in Britain. There's still so many talking like Sir Leonard last night. ...We're always the last, Stevens. Always the last to be clinging on to outmoded systems. But sooner or later, we'll need to face up to the facts. Democracy is something for a bygone era." (198)

The novel is deeply informed by the conflict between the rhetorical apparatus associated with democratic ideals and a new world order that might seem to demand some anti-democratic imperative for a government by a privileged few. How might the conflict between these two statements mime the structuring conflict of the book -- that is, Stevens' idea that he has served a man who tried to do "good" in the world as opposed to the troubling truth that Lord Darlington was elitist and perhaps fascist?

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