Both for a title and land. He aligns

Both Stevens and Dowell strengthen their self-victimisations by preventing the reader from attributing any culpability to them for their wasted lives. Dowell hasn’t yet made the calculations to figure out how he best appears to the reader as he oscillates between two narrative masks. On one hand, Dowell presents himself as the helpless nouveau riche Philadelphian who is a victim of ‘the English habit of taking everyone for granted.’ He argues that he was blinded to Florence’s affair, and could ‘never really get an inch deeper than the things I have catalogued,’ due to the deceptive appearance of behaviour. This presentation makes the reader sympathise with a naïve Dowell yet highlights his inertia and inability to satisfy Florence. In accordance with this, Dowell contradicts himself with his false claim to British ancestry: ‘I carry about with me, indeed – as if it were the only thing that invisibly anchored me to any spot upon the globe- the title deeds of my farm.’ As he connives his way into the masculinity of the British aristocracy, he directly battles his inability to fulfil Florence’s desire for a title and land. He aligns himself with the penniless British noble of the ‘million dollar princess’ trend, popular since the publicised marriage of Jennie Jerome to the Duke of Marlborough in 1874, to soothe his feelings of inadequacy. While this presentation assuages these feelings of emasculation, it contradicts his self-victimisation which entails a level of culpability for his unfulfillment. This lack of awareness about his own narrative is not only surprising for a Madox Ford novel, as Ford so emphasises the significance of ‘justification’ in his ‘On Impressionism’, but also deeply contrasts Stevens’ consistent presentation of himself as the perfect manservant of unquestioning loyalty who cannot be blamed for Lord Darlington’s errors: ‘How can one possibly be held to blame in any sense because, say, the passage of time has shown that Lord Darlington’s efforts were misguided, even foolish? Throughout the years I served him, it was he and he alone who weighed up evidence and judged it best to proceed in the way he did, while I simply confined myself, quite properly, to affairs within my own professional realm. And as far as I am concerned, I carried out my duties to the best of my abilities, indeed to a standard which many may consider ‘first-rate.’ It is hardly my fault if his lordship’s life and work have turned out today to look, at best, a sad waste-and it is quite illogical that I should feel any regret or shame on my own account.’At pains to emphasise his dissociation from any wrongdoing, Stevens’ deception is more severe than McCulloch recognises with his gentle statement that he is ‘inclined to put a favourable construction on his behaviour.’ In the second sentence, his use of the intensifier ‘own’ before the possessive ‘my’ emphasises himself as the sole agent in his own ‘realm.’ He clearly distinguishes this world from Darlington’s actions with the repetition of ‘he’ to frame the verbs ‘weighed up’, ‘judged,’ and ‘proceed’; a frame which Stevens remains outside of. With his Satrean ‘I-was-only-obeying-orders attitude’, Stevens claims it was ‘he and he alone,’ who was responsible for any moral misdemeanour, thus alleviating his guilt for moral inertia. In the context of 1932, it is not surprising that Lord Darlington fraternises with Sir Oswald Mosley’s ‘blackshirts’ as James posits that: ‘Visceral anti-Semitism permeated the upper classes between the wars. Jews were vilified (…) when the aristocracy was grumbling about an often exaggerated downturn in their fortunes.’ Yet, by leaving the severity of Lord Darlington’s actions deliberately ambiguous, using ‘life and work’ to refer to his Nazi sympathies, Stevens neither condemns his behaviour from a post-holocaust perspective, nor excuses him by claiming that he was among many others of the British aristocracy (Lord Redesdale, Lord Brocket and Lord Londonderry, to give examples). He refuses to recognise any mistake on Darlington’s part in order to reduce his own culpability in the reader’s eyes. This extrication from any responsibility is combined with his narrative bewilderment in order to claim innocence. The adjective ‘even’ in the first question claims surprise at the seemingly new thought of Darlington’s actions as ‘foolish’. Having argued that his cooperation with Darlington was unwitting, Stevens defensively presents himself as proficient at his job to suggest the propriety of his behaviour. He authenticates his assertion that his services were ‘first-rate’ with the testimony of ‘many’, which, with the interjection of ‘quite properly,’ infers some moral authority to his actions. Stevens’ mask prevents the reader from holding him responsible for any error as his biased narrative strains to prove the admirability of his behaviour.


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