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
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.