Reoression, Defense Mechanisms and the Unreliability of Stevens' Narration in the Remains of the Day

  • Lulu Guo

Student thesis: Bachelor


This essay argues that repression and defense mechanisms contribute to the unreliability of Stevens’ narrationthrough three aspects: Stevens’ uncertainty of certain memories, his failure to report certain scenescorrectly and his defensive, self-contradictory discourse. There is no single best way to define what is consideredreliable and what is unreliable in narratology because the complexity of fictional characters will renderdifferent kinds of unreliability. This essay detects three kinds of unreliability of Stevens corresponding to thethree aspects mentIoned above: the first kind results from the untrustworthiness of our memory, the secondkind is the contradiction between the voice of the narrator and the other characters and the third kind lieswithin the narrative discourse. The unreliability of Stevens’ narration attributes to repression and defensemechanisms. The five kinds of defense mechanisms analyzed in the essay are selective memory, denial,projection, reaction formation and rationalization. In order to defend his self-image as a great butler, Stevenslies to or hides from himself and tries to avoid acknowledging certain undesirable thoughts or emotions. Eventhough Stevens becomes more reliable as he gains more self-realization during the road trip, his defensesare still on.

Date of Award2018-Jun-26
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLena Ahlin (Supervisor)

Courses and Subjects

  • English

University credits

  • 15 HE credits

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Languages and Literature (602)


  • repression
  • defense mechanisms
  • (un)reliable narrator
  • discourse
  • the (un)conscious
  • butler
  • kazuo ishiguro
  • the remains of the day

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