Book: Explorations in Stylistics
Chapter: The limits of politeness: a butler’s pragmatic dilemmas in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day
In this chapter the author explores how the butler, Stevens, in The Remains of the Day encounters situations in which the politeness we might expect from a butler is challenged and abandoned. His polite and dignified self restraint in the service of Darlington and the institution of Darlington Hall come under pressure from self-interest, the ‘truth’ and the need for communication. And his subservience to this seat of power actually makes him less than polite to others whose demands conflict with his master’s. The chapter attempts to show how politeness theory, as an explanation for the breaching of the maxims of the Co-operative Principle, can be a useful analytical tool for understanding character and theme. It therefore belongs to a stylistics that takes seriously the intentionality of pragmatics in the addresser-addressee relationship.