Becoming servants was the only way out to redeem a life of poverty and people who lived downstairs wanted to improve their working position.
“Downstairs” there was a world teeming with hope, jealousy, strife, dedication to work, sufferings and small joys.
Sometimes the servants got married and left the house. For the butler and the housekeeper, instead, it was difficult (if not impossible) to make a life outside work because they were the highest servants in rank, they were perpetually committed of service to their employers and they had many responsibilities, also over other staff such as training new staff members, organising the staff schedule, and hiring or firing the underservants. So almost always they retired without ever getting married.
Mr Stevens is the quintessence of the perfect butler and he never really gives Miss Kenton’s love a chance. Their relationship is so frustrating and every time she tries to start a romantic conversation with him, he systematically brings the conversation back to a professional level. The sweet fondness between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes of Downton Abbey brings to mind the story of Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton so I’m sure that their relationship is inspired by The Remains of the day.
Unlike Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton, Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes choose to give themselves a chance perhaps because they are older and on the threshold of retirement, maybe because they fear the prospect of facing old age in solitude. Anyway the decide to get married.
But the relationship (emotional and professional) between the butler and the housekeeper is not the only similarities between “The remains of the day” and “Downton Abbey”. Many scenes are inspired by “The remains of the day”, starting with the butler who irons the newspaper, the table set using the measuring tape and another pivotal scene in which we see Carson mirroring himself in the tray as Stevens did stealthily.
There is another scene borrowed from “The remains of the day” which concerns two other characters: Edith on her bicycle makes us immediately think about the arrival of Miss Kenton at Darlington Hall, both bikes are black and have a basket on the handlebars and the two women are both wearing hat and black gloves, although some details in the clothing show us the different social class of the two.
But if “The remains of the day” has highlighted Steven’s blind fidelity to Lord Darlington showing the incommunicability between the servants and the lords, divided as two different worlds, “Downton Abbey” focuses on two worlds that often communicate and sometimes meet, it shows the analogies between the servants and the nobles facing love and life problems, and gives everyone the chance for redemption and the hope and the possibility of a better life.