The Remains of the Day

The English Landscape Symbol Analysis

The English Landscape Symbol Icon

The physical journey that Stevens takes in his employer’s Ford mirrors the psychological journey he undergoes in returning to his past and knitting together a narrative. Similarly, the landscape that Stevens encounters becomes a confirmation of the way Stevens sees the world, as well as a reminder that his world view—including the reminiscences he pieces together—is constructed through a certain perspective and through certain narrative choices. That is, when Stevens looks out at the English landscape that he encounters during his trip, he doesn’t just see a beautiful view. He sees a confirmation of English “greatness”—arguing, indeed, that England’s landscape is more spectacular than the magnificent vistas elsewhere in the world precisely because it is subtle and modest. This understanding of greatness is closely related to Stevens’s understanding of the defining trait of a great butler: the ability to be discreet, private, and unassuming. Indeed, this is a worldview that traditionally defined the English aristocracy, with the values of decency, fair play, and polite gentility promoted above all. There is a certain national pride, then, associated both with these values and with the English landscape. This connection can perhaps clarify the appeal of extreme nationalism in the form of Nazi fascism to people like Lord Darlington, who see nationalism as an extension of proper national pride and tradition. Stevens seems to have internalized this link, and indeed, over the course of the novel the troubling underpinnings of something as benign as landscape become increasingly clear.

The English Landscape Quotes in The Remains of the Day

The The Remains of the Day quotes below all refer to the symbol of The English Landscape. 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 One: Evening Quotes

And yet what precisely is this “greatness”? Just where, or in what, does it lie? I am quite aware that it would take a far wiser head than mine to answer such a question, but if I were forced to hazard a guess, I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart.

Related Characters: Mr. Stevens (speaker)
Related Symbols: The English Landscape
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

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The English Landscape Symbol Timeline in The Remains of the Day

The timeline below shows where the symbol The English Landscape appears in The Remains of the Day. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: July 1956
History, Retrospection and Regret Theme Icon
Class Difference and Social Change Theme Icon
...his employer Mr. Farraday’s car and travel from Darlington Hall, where he works, through the English countryside . In fact, he acknowledges, it was Mr. Farraday’s idea that he take a break... (full context)
Day One: Evening
History, Retrospection and Regret Theme Icon
...enough legs to continue up the hill, because there’s no better view of the English landscape. The man said Stevens would be sorry if he doesn’t take that walk, since in... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
Authenticity, Performance, and Self-Deception Theme Icon
...countryside. While he admits that other countries may have spectacular scenery, he claims that English landscapes possess something special: he felt, that morning, in the presence of greatness. (full context)
Day Two: Morning
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
History, Retrospection and Regret Theme Icon
...an emptiness before me.” But most of the letter is more generally nostalgic, recalling the landscape from the second floor of Darlington Hall, for instance. She asks if Stevens remembers standing... (full context)
Dignity and Greatness  Theme Icon
History, Retrospection and Regret Theme Icon
...his journey to Salisbury. He’d avoided the major roads, and had been pleased with the landscape views. As he approached the city, he had to halt in the middle of the... (full context)