As Stevens grows accustomed to Mr. Farraday, his new American employer, he finds himself needing to address what he sees as the new requirements of his position. Mr. Farraday is much more informal than Lord Darlington, and he tries to banter casually with Stevens, who is taken aback. Banter thus begins to take on a special importance to Stevens, as it is emblematic of the way the modern world is shifting. Stevens tries to study banter as one might learn to polish silver—through constant practice. In the novel, Stevens’s studiousness about banter has a humorous effect on the reader, though (or perhaps because) Stevens takes his task so seriously. Stevens’s anxiety about banter and his inability to adapt to a demeanor that, among foreigners and younger Britons, is perfectly natural signals the way in which Stevens’s beloved aristocratic society of great country houses is crumbling around him. In response, he lives increasingly in the past, in the recollections that make up the bulk of the novel. However, at the end of the novel banter presents itself as something that Stevens might be able to learn, which gives him one possible way to face the “remains of the day.”
Banter Quotes in The Remains of the Day
It is quite possible, then, that my employer fully expects me to respond to his bantering in a like manner, and considers my failure to do so a form of negligence. This is, as I say, a matter which has given me much concern.
I had been rather pleased with my witticism when it had first come into my head, and I must confess I was slightly disappointed it had not been better received than it was. I was particularly disappointed, I suppose, because I have been devoting some time and effort over recent months to improving my skill in this very area. That is to say, I have been endeavouring to add this skill to my professional armoury so as to fulfil with confidence all Mr. Farraday’s expectations with respect to bantering.