This essay considers devotional addiction in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. The novel tells the story of Mr. Stevens, a constant English butler in a rapidly changing world. Having spent his best years in service to Lord Darlington, he must adjust to an American employer, someone untethered to the traditions that have ruled life at Darlington Hall. Told in the form of a travel journal, covering a span of six days in 1956, the journey is an inner one at heart, an extended bout of self-reflection, with Mr. Stevens thinking about his calling as he has never done before. In the end, how clearly he sees himself and his vocation remains an open question, but careful consideration of his story can illuminate vital details about dedication—addiction in the sense of steadfast devotion. Specifically, the novel explores how Mr. Stevens is embodied by his vocation, having become what he does in a world where professional butlers revere their station and its duties. Unlike external addictions, like drugs or alcohol, devotional addictions cultivate and ultimately constitute a self in ways resistant to changing course at will. In the case of Stevens, the self gathers around a calling that can only be jettisoned at the risk of implosion.

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