The Remains of the Day

Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn) Character Analysis

The lead housemaid at Darlington Hall, Miss Kenton is intelligent, headstrong, and stubborn. Like Stevens, she takes a great deal of pride in her work and in her position, but she also possesses a more independent streak than Stevens, which allows her to disagree not only with him but also with the decisions made by Lord Darlington. Miss Kenton has a strong moral sense—she doesn’t hesitate to object strongly to the Jewish maids being dismissed, for instance—but she also recognizes her fragility as a woman alone and without resources in a society that still requires women either to be married or beholden to life as a servant. It gradually becomes clear that Miss Kenton is in love with Stevens, though she simultaneously finds him infuriating, and her decision to leave Darlington Hall is in part due to her frustration with his lack of response, as well as to her general impulsiveness. Miss Kenton, now Mrs. Benn, seems better suited than Stevens to face her “remains of the day” outside the realm of aristocratic country houses, but she too struggles to find a place for herself in a changing world.

Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn) Quotes in The Remains of the Day

The The Remains of the Day quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn) or refer to Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Remains of the Day published in 1990.
Day Two: Morning Quotes

But now that I think further about it, I am not sure Miss Kenton spoke quite so boldly that day. […] I am not sure she could actually have gone so far as to say things like: “these errors may be trivial in themselves, but you must yourself realize their larger significance.” In fact, now that I come to think of it, I have a feeling it may have been Lord Darlington himself who made that particular remark to me that time he called me into his study some two months after that exchange with Miss Kenton outside the billiard room.

Related Characters: Mr. Stevens (speaker), Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn), Lord Darlington
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
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Day Three: Evening Quotes

“Does it not occur to you, Mr. Stevens, that to dismiss Ruth and Sarah on these grounds would be simply—wrong? I will not stand for such things. I will not work in a house in which such things can occur.”
“Miss Kenton, I will ask you not to excite yourself and to conduct yourself in a manner befitting your position. This is a very straightforward matter. If his lordship wishes these particular contracts to be discontinued, then there is little more to be said.”

Related Characters: Mr. Stevens (speaker), Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn) (speaker), Ruth and Sarah
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
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Naturally—and why should I not admit this—I have occasionally wondered to myself how things might have turned out in the long run had I not been so determined over the issue of our evening meetings; that is to say, had I relented on those several occasions over the weeks that followed when Miss Kenton suggested we reinstitute them. I only speculate over this now because in the light of subsequent events, it could well be argued that in making my decision to end those evening meetings once and for all, I was perhaps not entirely aware of the full implications of what I was doing.

Related Characters: Mr. Stevens (speaker), Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn)
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:
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Day Four: Afternoon Quotes

It occurs to me that elsewhere in attempting to gather such recollections, I may well have asserted that this memory derived from the minutes immediately after Miss Kenton’s receiving news of her aunt’s death; that is to say, the occasion when, having left her to be alone with her grief, I realized out in the corridor that I had not offered her my condolences. But now, having thought further, I believe I may have been a little confused about this matter; that in fact this fragment of memory derives from events that took place on an evening at least a few months after the death of Miss Kenton’s aunt.

Related Characters: Mr. Stevens (speaker), Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn)
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:
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Day Six: Evening Quotes

And you get to thinking about a different life, a better life you might have had. For instance, I get to thinking about a life I may have had with you, Mr. Stevens. And I suppose that’s when I get angry over some trivial little thing and leave. But each time I do so, I realize before long—my rightful place is with my husband. After all, there’s no turning back the clock now. One can’t be forever dwelling on what might have been.

Related Characters: Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn) (speaker), Mr. Stevens
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:
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Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn) Character Timeline in The Remains of the Day

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Kenton (Mrs. Benn) appears in The Remains of the Day. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: July 1956
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It was the arrival of a letter from Miss Kenton, who used to work at Darlington Hall, that made Stevens begin to reconsider. He acknowledges... (full context)
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...to acknowledge his own limitations, leading to several mistakes (which remain, for now, unnamed). When Miss Kenton wrote a letter, seeming quite nostalgic for Darlington Hall, it occurred to him that it... (full context)
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In order to get a sense of Miss Kenton’s new home in her married life, Stevens perused Mrs. Jane Symon’s volumes on The Wonder... (full context)
Day One: Evening
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...he felt anticipation, and a renewed sense of resolve in facing his professional task with Miss Kenton . (full context)
Day Two: Morning
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...filled with mist and no one visible from his window. He goes over passages from Miss Kenton’s letter, admitting that she has properly been Mrs. Benn for twenty years, but he hasn’t... (full context)
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In one part of the letter Miss Kenton writes, “The rest of my life stretches out as an emptiness before me.” But most... (full context)
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...when they decided to marry—hardly unexpected, but always a threat to household order, he found. Miss Kenton arrived around the time Stevens’s father was left without a position, after Mr. Silvers’s death.... (full context)
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Shortly thereafter, Stevens was sitting in his pantry when Miss Kenton arrived with a vase of flowers, smiling and saying they might brighten his parlor. Taken... (full context)
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...it she’d realize it would be inappropriate to talk “down” to someone like his father. Miss Kenton continued to assert that her position was in fact above his, even while Stevens insisted... (full context)
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Several weeks later, Miss Kenton came to Stevens in the library and said that he’d left a dust-pan in the... (full context)
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Not long afterward, Miss Kenton alerted Stevens to a misplaced “Chinaman” (porcelain object). Stevens said he was busy and would... (full context)
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As he thinks back on it, though, Stevens now wonders if Miss Kenton really spoke so boldly that day. Now that he thinks of it, it may have... (full context)
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...right, he said. Stevens responded, “Indeed,” and left shortly after. The summer evening mentioned by Miss Kenton in her letter was not long thereafter: now Stevens recalls her figure silhouetted against the... (full context)
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The tension was also noticeable with Miss Kenton . Once, during the preparations, Stevens came upon her in the dark backroom corridor, and... (full context)
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...the arrival of an American senator, Mr. Lewis. As he arrived Stevens happened to encounter Miss Kenton in the back corridor; asking her who had just arrived, she hurried past, telling him... (full context)
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...to his room, Stevens wasn’t sure what to do: there wasn’t a moment to spare. Miss Kenton appeared, then, and said she could attend to his father and show Dr. Meredith up.... (full context)
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...second evening, Stevens senior was asleep when his son visited, but the chambermaid left by Miss Kenton began to shake him awake. Stevens told her to stop, but she said she’d had... (full context)
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...smiled and shook his head. At that moment the first footman whispered to Stevens that Miss Kenton needed a word with him. He slipped out to find her looking upset, saying his... (full context)
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...said he probably had a stroke; she began to cry. Stevens turned away and told Miss Kenton that while this was very distressing, he had to return downstairs: he did so, and... (full context)
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Stevens saw Miss Kenton signaling him and he began toward the door when M. Dupont asked him to find... (full context)
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Mr. Cardinal started up a drunken conversation with Stevens, before a footman told Stevens that Miss Kenton wanted to talk to him. She told him Dr. Meredith had arrived, and Dupont, who’d... (full context)
Day Three: Morning
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...embarrassed, though he knows this and other incidents are signs only of a staff shortage: Miss Kenton’s return to Darlington Hall would allow such occurrences to stop immediately. Stevens spent last night... (full context)
Day Three: Evening
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Stevens knew he’d have to talk to Miss Kenton about the dismissal, and he resolved to do so during their evening meeting in the... (full context)
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Stevens resolved to announce the matter concisely, and he informed Miss Kenton at the end of their meeting. Since she remained silent, he said he would go... (full context)
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Miss Kenton, though, said that if the girls were dismissed then she’d leave too because it would... (full context)
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Miss Kenton remained cold toward Stevens for several weeks. Stevens eventually grew impatient, finally telling her, with... (full context)
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Stevens began by saying, while laughing, that he’d been thinking of Miss Kenton’s earlier insistence that she would resign. But Miss Kenton, after a silence, told him she... (full context)
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In a different voice, Miss Kenton expressed shock, recalling that Stevens had seemed pleased and cheerful about the girls’ dismissal. He... (full context)
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...Lisa had dubious references, having never stayed anywhere for more than a few weeks, but Miss Kenton insisted that she saw potential in her, and would take her under her own supervision.... (full context)
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Miss Kenton took a certain triumph in Lisa’s success, and she teased Stevens about it during their... (full context)
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...they had no money but only needed love; it contained no word of gratitude to Miss Kenton, who was deeply upset. After reading the letter, she said that Stevens was right after... (full context)
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...alone now, indulging in recollections. He has been wondering how and when his relationship with Miss Kenton underwent such a change; by the end they even abandoned their evening cocoa routine. He’s... (full context)
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That evening, Stevens was enjoying a rare hour off duty, reading, when Miss Kenton entered with a vase of flowers. He was reticent as she tried to chat, so... (full context)
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...that his reaction at the time was entirely warranted, since it was the principle of Miss Kenton interrupting his privacy that was at issue. A butler must never be “off duty” in... (full context)
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...is really only noteworthy, Stevens thinks, in that it allowed him to realize how inappropriate Miss Kenton’s behavior to him had become. He’d need to reestablish a sense of professionalism. (full context)
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Something else, though, that may have contributed to the change was a shift in Miss Kenton’s days off. She was accustomed to taking two days off every six weeks to visit... (full context)
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Stevens started to notice that Miss Kenton was now receiving regular letters from the same address. Her moods began to shift too,... (full context)
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Miss Kenton added that Stevens certainly must be content; he had reached the top of his profession,... (full context)
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...to an end. Stevens recalls the very night: he’d been discussing a forthcoming event with Miss Kenton, and she’d been nearly silent. Finally, he said he saw little point in continuing if... (full context)
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...in the pantry might be thought of as one, as well as his encounter with Miss Kenton the afternoon she learned of her aunt’s death. Stevens had handed her the letter; she... (full context)
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...afternoon Stevens, having spent a few hours wondering how he might lighten her burden, found Miss Kenton in the dining room. He asked how she was doing, and if she was experiencing... (full context)
Day Four: Afternoon
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...rain is now lighter than before, but he wants to wait until 3:00 to meet Miss Kenton, rather than surprise her by arriving earlier than their appointment. (full context)
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...thinking of a fragment of a memory: standing alone in front of the door to Miss Kenton’s parlor, convinced that on the other side she was crying. Earlier he’d asserted that this... (full context)
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Stevens then went down to Miss Kenton’s parlor to inform her of Mr. Cardinal’s arrival. She said she was going out that... (full context)
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...minutes later, Stevens was carrying a tray upstairs when he heard angry footsteps and saw Miss Kenton glaring at him from the foot of the stairs. She asked if he expected her... (full context)
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Herr Ribbentrop and another gentleman arrived not long thereafter. A little later, Miss Kenton returned. She asked if Stevens was not at all interested in what took place with... (full context)
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As Stevens left her, Miss Kenton called out his name, and asked if after all her years of service, he had... (full context)
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...leave as he heard the bell from the drawing room. Upon going downstairs, he met Miss Kenton, who apologized for her foolishness earlier. He said he couldn’t even recall what she had... (full context)
Day Six: Evening
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...view of the sunset over the sea. It’s now two days after his meeting with Miss Kenton, and he will leave tomorrow to arrive back at Darlington Hall. (full context)
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Miss Kenton had surprised Stevens by coming to the hotel. He met her in the tea lounge;... (full context)
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Stevens also learned that, while Miss Kenton had indeed left her home for several days, she’d recently returned, and Mr. Benn was... (full context)
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Stevens attempted, in turn, to describe to Miss Kenton how Darlington Hall had changed: she seemed to become visibly more cheerful when turning to... (full context)
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...two talked of happy memories, and Stevens was surprised that two hours had passed when Miss Kenton said she must return home. As Stevens drove her to the bus stop, she asked... (full context)
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As they waited for the bus, Stevens asked permission to ask Miss Kenton a personal question: given the letters he’s had from her, he’d like to know if... (full context)
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Miss Kenton said she felt she could respond honestly, as she and Stevens may not meet again... (full context)
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...at that moment, his heart was breaking. After a silent moment, though, he turned to Miss Kenton with a smile and said he agreed that it’s too late to turn back the... (full context)