The Remains of the Day (1993)

Brief Intro

🎬 The Remains of the Day is a poignant 1993 drama film directed by James Ivory, based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel. Set in post-World War II Britain, it stars Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. The story follows a dedicated butler, Stevens, as he reflects on his years of service and missed opportunities for love and personal fulfillment.

Literary Devices Used in The Remains of the Day

Here are ten key literary devices used in the film, with specific examples from different scenes.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Stevens ignoring Miss Kenton’s feelingsStevens’ dedication to duty blinds him to his personal feelings, leading to tragic irony.
Lord Darlington’s naivety about the NazisThe irony of Lord Darlington’s misguided idealism resulting in disastrous consequences.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The worn glovesSymbolize Stevens’ hidden emotions and his rigid adherence to duty.
The mansion’s grandeur and decayReflects the decline of the British aristocracy and Stevens’ inner emptiness.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Stevens’ memories of Lord DarlingtonFlashbacks provide context and contrast with the present.
Miss Kenton’s departureReveals the emotional depth and missed opportunities of Stevens’ life.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The road tripRepresents Stevens’ journey of self-discovery and reflection.
The title “The Remains of the Day”Metaphor for the remnants of Stevens’ life and lost time.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Stevens’ father’s deathForeshadows Stevens’ own emotional detachment and sacrifices.
Miss Kenton’s initial confrontationsHints at her eventual departure and unresolved tensions.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Lord Darlington’s political gatheringsAllegory for the dangerous allure of fascism.
Stevens’ unwavering loyaltyRepresents the dangers of blind obedience and duty.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Stevens’ and his father’s dedicationParallels show generational impact of duty.
Miss Kenton’s emotional expressiveness vs. Stevens’ restraintHighlights contrasting character traits.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The grandeur of the mansion vs. the humble cottagesJuxtaposes the social classes and changing times.
Stevens’ internal turmoil vs. external composureEmphasizes his emotional conflict.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The foggy English countrysideConveys a sense of mystery and Stevens’ unclear future.
The meticulously set dining tableReflects the rigid social order and attention to detail.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The recurring lettersMotif of missed communication and opportunities.
Discussions about “dignity”Repeatedly explores the theme of what true dignity entails.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies


Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyStevens’ dedication to duty ironically prevents him from living a fulfilling personal life.
FlashbacksShow his unwavering loyalty and the cost of his sacrifices.

Miss Kenton

Literary DeviceExplanation
SymbolismHer departure symbolizes lost opportunities and emotional repression.
JuxtapositionContrasts her emotional openness with Stevens’ restraint, highlighting their differences.

Lord Darlington

Literary DeviceExplanation
AllegoryRepresents the misguided idealism and moral blindness of the British aristocracy.
IronyHis good intentions ironically lead to disastrous political consequences.

Character Dynamics

Literary DeviceExplanation
ParallelismStevens’ and his father’s similar paths emphasize the impact of their rigid devotion to duty.
JuxtapositionThe contrasting relationships between characters, such as Stevens and Miss Kenton, drive the narrative and highlight the themes of duty versus personal fulfillment.

Thematic Analysis

The Passage of Time

Literary DeviceExplanation
FlashbacksHighlight the contrast between past and present, emphasizing the theme of lost time.
MetaphorThe title itself serves as a metaphor for the remnants of life and missed opportunities.

Duty and Personal Sacrifice

Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyStevens’ unwavering duty leads to personal loss and regret.
AllegoryHis dedication is an allegory for the dangers of blind obedience.

Social Class and Change

Literary DeviceExplanation
SymbolismThe decaying mansion symbolizes the decline of the British aristocracy.
JuxtapositionThe contrasting settings highlight the changing social landscape.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismCinematographyThe use of lighting and set design to emphasize the worn gloves and decaying mansion.
FlashbacksEditingSmooth transitions between past and present to provide context and emotional depth.
IronySound DesignThe use of music to underscore the tragic irony of Stevens’ loyalty.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene 1: Miss Kenton’s Departure

Watch Scene


  • Literary Devices: Symbolism, Irony
  • Cinematic Techniques: Close-up shots to capture emotional nuances, muted color palette to reflect somber mood.
  • Impact: Highlights the emotional climax and Stevens’ internal conflict, contributing to the film’s overall poignancy.

Scene 2: Stevens’ Father’s Death

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  • Literary Devices: Foreshadowing, Allegory
  • Cinematic Techniques: Slow pacing and low-key lighting to enhance the gravity of the moment.
  • Impact: Foreshadows Stevens’ own emotional sacrifices and reinforces the theme of duty over personal life.

Scene 3: Final Reunion

Watch Scene


  • Literary Devices: Flashbacks, Metaphor
  • Cinematic Techniques: Intercutting past and present to highlight missed opportunities, symbolic use of the setting.
  • Impact: Brings the story full circle, emphasizing the theme of the passage of time and lost chances.


To test your understanding of the literary devices used in The Remains of the Day, try this interactive quiz!

Multiple Choice Quiz

  1. What does the worn glove symbolize?
    • A) Stevens’ professionalism
    • B) Stevens’ hidden emotions
    • C) Stevens’ wealth
    • D) Stevens’ loyalty
  2. Which literary device is primarily used to contrast the past and present in the film?
  3. What is the primary theme explored through Stevens’ character?
    • A) Love and Romance
    • B) Duty and Personal Sacrifice
    • C) Social Change
    • D) Wealth and Power
  4. How does the film use cinematography to enhance symbolism?
    • A) Through rapid cuts
    • B) Through close-up shots
    • C) Through lighting and set design
    • D) Through sound design
  5. What does the decaying mansion represent in the film?
    • A) The British Empire
    • B) Stevens’ emotional state
    • C) The decline of the aristocracy
    • D) Miss Kenton’s departure


  1. B
  2. C
  3. B
  4. C
  5. C