Thoughs About The Story Etiquette beween a butler and all others is, at least in Stevens' world, defined clearly and narrowly, and 'dignity' has to do crucially with a butler's ability not to abandon the professional being he inhabits (42). He is to be chummy but distant with butlers from other households, to maintain a strict professionalism with other employees in his own household, and to remain unquestioningly loyal to his own employer. To achieve dignity and its crucial link with greatness (113), it seems, he must even separate himself from himself, as he abstains from the use of first person pronouns and almost always uses the term one when describing his own actions and thoughts. In Beerbohm's story it is humorous that a brief and not unpleasant interaction between two strangers is a situation of potential ill-will or blame. But in the case of Stevens' relationships, a similar exaltation of the non-participatory, spectator-like attitude towards acquaintanceship leads to much sadder results; although the same sorts of values are reflected and often are just as amusing, the detachment that Stevens equates with dignity is depressing and ultimately is chilling, as well. The distance Stevens insists upon (by default) between himself and Mr.
Graham, a butler from another household whom he greatly admires and enjoys, denies both a friendship that could be quite gratifying, for although we had not known each other well, I would say we had got on on those occasions we had met (19).But Stevens, though he would like to have discovered what had become of Mr Graham, since those evenings [talking with him] rank amongst my fondest memories, never inquires about the man, for the simple reason that no suitable opportunity arose for me to gain such information (19, 31). Again and again Graham's name appears; Stevens thinks of him often. But because there is no detached way to discover his whereabouts, the potential friendship goes unrealized. The professionalism Stevens insists upon between himself and Miss Kenton, the maid in Darlington's employ, denies him any romantic or sexual pleasure, though there obviously exists a great tension between them; Stevens is too late when he finally (sort of) admits his affection for the woman, and Miss Kenton has gone on to make a life of her own (in which she, incidentally, is equally unhappy).
Stevens thinks about Miss Kenton even more than he does about Graham, and with an even stronger sense of regret: Book Reports.