The Remains of the Day

William Stevens, senior (Stevens’s father) Character Analysis

A butler all his life, Stevens’s father works for a man named Mr. John Silvers until Silvers’ death, when Stevens senior comes to work with Stevens at Darlington Hall. Stevens models himself after his father, considering Stevens senior as the embodiment of dignity and professionalism. As a result, though, the narrator also has learned to maintain his formal role even when alone with his father, including at his father’s deathbed. Stevens senior, too, finds his identity wrapped up in his position as butler, such that, as he approaches death, he is most troubled by his increasing inability to fulfill the tasks required of him.

William Stevens, senior (Stevens’s father) Quotes in The Remains of the Day

The The Remains of the Day quotes below are all either spoken by William Stevens, senior (Stevens’s father) or refer to William Stevens, senior (Stevens’s father). 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:
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
). 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

Even so, if you consider the pressures contingent on me that night, you may not think I delude myself unduly if I go so far as to suggest that I did perhaps display, in the fact of everything, at least in some modest degree a ‘dignity’ worthy of someone like Mr. Marshall—or come to that, my father. Indeed, why should I deny it? For all its sad associations, whenever I recall that evening today, I find I do so with a large sense of triumph.

Related Characters: William Stevens, senior (Stevens’s father)
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

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William Stevens, senior (Stevens’s father) Character Timeline in The Remains of the Day

The timeline below shows where the character William Stevens, senior (Stevens’s father) appears in The Remains of the Day. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Day One: Evening
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Class Difference and Social Change Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Stevens proposes that his own father was the embodiment of “dignity.” Though he lacked some aspects of being a great butler,... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
History, Retrospection and Regret Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Stevens thinks of one anecdote in particular, which his father often repeated over the years: since he didn’t often relate anecdotes, Stevens sees this as... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Politics and Loyalty  Theme Icon
Stevens now sees that his father must have striven for years to become that butler, and he believes that his father... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Politics and Loyalty  Theme Icon
Stevens also remembers another anecdote that makes clear his father’s dignity. Stevens’s brother was killed in the Southern African War, not gloriously but in an... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...the difference between a competent butler like Mr. Neighbours and one of dignity like his father becomes clear: it’s the butler’s ability to maintain professionalism at all times, rather than abandon... (full context)
Day Two: Morning
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
History, Retrospection and Regret Theme Icon
...Darlington Hall, for instance. She asks if Stevens remembers standing with her to watch his father walk back and forth outside the house. He too remembers, and he wishes to explain... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
...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. Stevens thought he would ask him... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Class Difference and Social Change Theme Icon
...While she was there, he added, he asked if she might refrain from calling his father “William,” instead addressing him as “Mr. Stevens senior.” After a moment, she said that she... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Class Difference and Social Change Theme Icon
...considered 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... (full context)
Class Difference and Social Change Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...dismissing her, he went into the hall, where it lay conspicuously; Stevens realized that his father had been brushing the hall earlier. His irritation soon turned to Miss Kenton for creating... (full context)
History, Retrospection and Regret Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...so concerned with trivial errors. The errors add up to larger significance, she said: his father was no longer in possession of his former powers. He shouldn’t be allowed to carry... (full context)
History, Retrospection and Regret Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
In this instance, Lord Darlington barely glanced up from his book to ask if Stevens’s father had made a full recovery from his fall. If it happened on the lawn, it... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Politics and Loyalty  Theme Icon
...earlier, Lord Darlington had been entertaining two guests in the summerhouse and had seen Stevens’s father approach across the lawn carrying a tray of refreshments, when he fell and scattered everything... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Over the years, Stevens and his father had come to have fewer and fewer conversations—he was never sure why—so the task of... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Stevens found his father shaving, and he asked politely if his father wasn’t being troubled by his arthritis; his... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Stevens’s father betrayed no sense of emotion, but said he’d only fallen once because of the crooked... (full context)
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Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...Now, though, he wants to correct a possible impression from his earlier story about his father: that he treated his father’s declining abilities too bluntly. He had little choice but to... (full context)
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Class Difference and Social Change Theme Icon
Politics and Loyalty  Theme Icon
...military-style pep talk to the staff. Thus, he hopes it will be understood that his father’s fall allowed little room for “beating around the bush.” And his father did find a... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...billiard room awaiting a nurse when a footman hurried over to inform Stevens that his father had taken ill upstairs. Stevens hurried upstairs to find his father on one knee, attempting... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
After Stevens’s father was transported to his room, Stevens wasn’t sure what to do: there wasn’t a moment... (full context)
History, Retrospection and Regret Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...discussions seemed to become increasingly heated, though M. Dupont continued to say little. Meanwhile, Stevens’s father had grown no better or worse. On the second evening, Stevens senior was asleep when... (full context)
Politics and Loyalty  Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
Stevens came to his father’s room to see Mrs. Mortimer, the cook, standing over the bed: Stevens senior’s face was... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...find him soon. Miss Kenton walked toward the staircase, where she told Stevens that his father passed away a few minutes before. Her head bowed, she almost started to sob, but... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...in relief. Stevens led Dupont to the billiard room, then met Dr. Meredith in his father’s room, which smelled of roasting from Mrs. Mortimer. After thanking the doctor, Stevens asked if... (full context)
Day Two: Afternoon
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Class Difference and Social Change Theme Icon
Politics and Loyalty  Theme Icon
Stevens adopts a metaphor to make his point: butlers of his father’s generation tended to see the world like a ladder—with the houses of royalty and oldest... (full context)