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Updated Up To 23/01/2018
Volume 5, Number 1 (January 2007) : 77--89
Servility and Destructiveness in The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Michel Terestchenko
Rubric A: Literature and Ideology


The figure of the butler, the protagonist of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel is a subtle illustration of the ability of human consciousness to deceive itself in what Sartre called “bad faith.” The self-deception is enhanced by being legitimized in the framework of a professional ethics. This ethics of the “dignity” of a job perfectly well accomplished, which  is presented as nothing but blind obedience, not only leads to the character’s failure in his life but, more dangerously, to his serving as an instrument of evil action. Indirect commentary on latter aspect of the novel can be sought in Sartre’s analysis of “bad faith” and Marx’s of the alienated consciousness but also in the experiments in social psychology conducted by Stanley Milgram which point to the mechanisms by which ordinary people can become agents of mass destruction.

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