The Remains of the Day tackles some of the important questions that were raised in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust—but only some, because approximately one gajillion super-important questions were raised. The enormity of the Holocaust led many to question how a supposedly civilized Europe could let something so insanely horrific happen. Attitudes toward race and national identity were shaken.
The novel explores how a seemingly noble attachment to Englishness and English values such as fairness and humanity could be associated with fascism and anti-Semitism. Finding one race (the English) superior led to finding other races (the Jews) inferior. This, unfortunately, was a slippery slope that too many in England found themselves on in the years preceding World War II.
Questions About Politics (Fascism, Anti-Semitism, Englishness)
How do different characters define Englishness? Compare the attitudes of Stevens, Lord Darlington, and other characters.
What are some instances of anti-Semitism in the novel? According to Stevens, why did Lord Darlington become (at least briefly) an anti-Semite?
Which characters are directly engaged in politics? Which characters are not? Does the novel seem to support the view that politics is only for the elite, or do you think the novel sides more with the democrats?
Chew on This
The Remains of the Day explores the uncomfortable proximity of fascism and patriotism, or pride in Englishness.
The Remains of the Day reveals the irony of the political elite's view that they are more qualified to direct public affairs by virtue of their position in society.