Narrative Technique and the Postmodern Turn in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day

Document Type : Primary Research paper


1 Research Scholar, Humanities Division, Department of Sciences & Humanities,

2 Professor, Humanities Division, Department of Sciences & Humanities, Vignan’s Foundation for Science, Technology & Research, (Deemed to be University), Andhra Pradesh, INDIA


The postmodern novel, it is argued tends to be “subversive” of the very literary tradition to which it professes to belong. The juxtaposition of the two terms ‘postmodern’ and ‘novel’ and their relationship is considered ironic, because undermining of the genre of the novel, is a stated function of the postmodern. Literary critics have commented on how in the postmodern age, the novel mutates and adapts itself anew by breaking with the earlier narrative techniques. It preoccupies itself with presenting the inner world of the characters, their insecurities, anxieties and dilemmas. Temporally, it no longer follows the linear chronology of traditional narratives. Mirroring the deeply alienated and fragmented self, emerging out of the calamitous events of history in the twentieth century and the dehumanizing effect brought about by rapid technological advancements (Bauman, Liquid Modernity), a certain element of strangeness is evident in the postmodern novel. Almost everything, i.e., right from the plot structure to character delineation seems to be radically altered and the reader has no way of understanding in what conditions of the real world the characters have been conditioned or shaped by or what standards of rationality or values, they are departing from. Thus, the conventions of realism and sanity, (which presupposed the universality of human condition) are subverted. Individuals are often manifested as structure-less beings, continuously mutating, while their actions and behavior appear arbitrary and self-contradictory, and hence extremely baffling to the readers. Fiction thus, becomes a metaphor of fragmentation and postmodern disorientation. The paper will discuss how Kazuo Ishiguro deploys all these elements of metafiction in The Remains of the Day. The novel reveals the fragmented self that is essentially preoccupied with the ontological recollection. No particular time frame is evident to understand the story line in a chronological order. There is a tension of temporal distortion throughout the text and characters.