Miss Kenton comes downstairs and tells Stevens that his father passed away four minutes earlier. Stevens says that he will come up and see his father in a little while, but that his father would have wanted him to take care of his duties as a butler first. Stevens seats M. Dupont, who is complaining about his sore feet, in the billiard room. Then Dr. Meredith arrives and tells Stevens that his father died of a severe stroke. Stevens thanks the doctor, asks him to tend to M. Dupont, and shows him downstairs.

Stevens feels that that night constituted a turn in his professional development with regard to the level of dignity that he displayed in his capacity as a butler. He feels that on that night he displayed a dignity that was "at least in some modest degree" worthy of his father: "For all its sad associations, whenever I recall that evening today, I find I do so with a large sense of triumph."

Analysis

The fact that Stevens reads Miss Kenton's letter over and over is in itself a clear indication that he misses her quite a bit: he is so eager to have any news of her that he repeatedly peruses the letter for details. It also becomes clear how highly Stevens thinks of Miss Kenton as a person when he says that she was an exceptional professional who served Darlington Hall well for many years. We begin to see that when Stevens cares about someone, he makes exceptions for that person. Because Stevens thinks so highly of his father, he wants Miss Kenton to address him as Mr. Stevens; though Stevens does not approve of people leaving their stations to get married, he says that Miss Kenton did no discredit to her career by doing so.

If another employee made errors such as misplacing statues or leaving polish on the silver, Stevens would certainly call it to his attention, if not fire him. But because it is his father who makes these mistakes, Stevens is reluctant to admit to himself that his father is at fault. Stevens's reaction demonstrates that, despite the fact that his interactions with his father often seem cold, Stevens really does love and respect his father. Miss Kenton, however, persistently points out the errors Stevens's father makes; she knows that Stevens is extremely strict about her own mistakes, and she wants to make sure he applies his high standards fairly to all his workers. Miss Kenton is also afraid that it is only a matter of time until Stevens's father makes a more serious blunder.

Miss Kenton is proved right when Stevens's father falls while carrying the tray on the steps. When Stevens must give his father a revised list of chores, it is as difficult for him to do as it is for his father to hear. The fact that Stevens is so formal even with members of his own family demonstrates how completely he and his father are wedded to their jobs. Stevens clearly admires his father a great deal, and in many ways aspires to be just like him, imitating his coldly professional manner. When Stevens's father actually says that he is proud of Stevens, and that Stevens is a good son, it is a surprising and moving moment, as the two hardly ever speak.

The moment when Stevens and Miss Kenton see Stevens's father walking up and down the steps is a painfully powerful one. It is as if the elder Stevens is practicing or searching for something he has lost. This poignant image serves as a symbol for much of the novel as a whole: just as Stevens's father, in his old age, keeps examining the scene of his fall to see where he went wrong, so Stevens constantly relives his memories in an attempt to justify a life he is afraid he may have wasted.

Lord Darlington clearly has personal reasons for his sympathy to Germany. Before World War I, he believes that he and Herr Bremann will be able to be friends again after the war is over. After the war, however, the German economy suffers a great deal. Lord Darlington obviously feels partly responsible for Bremann's suicide, as England was part of the Allied forces that fought Germany and drew up the harsh conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. The personal tragedy of Bremann's death, in addition Darlington's first-hand glimpse of poverty upon visiting Germany, motivates him to hold the March 1923 conference to promote peace. Lord Darlington's motivations for helping Germany are indeed noble ones, and show how easy it can be to be led astray in a certain time by certain inclinations.

The fact that Stevens is enlisted to tell Reginald Cardinal the facts of life because two other grown men are too uncomfortable to do so is an illustration of repressed English social norms. It is simply not proper for gentlemen to speak of such things, so when someone must, no one knows how to do it. Stevens finds Reginald in the garden, and is going to use flowers or geese as a metaphor to explain sex. However, when he learns that M. Dupont has arrived at the house, he rushes off, probably relieved to escape such a daunting task. The fact that Stevens must do whatever Lord Darlington wishes him to do, however awkward and unprofessional, also illustrates the complete power that the head of the household exercised at that time.

During the final night of the conference, when Stevens must constantly rush around attending to all of the guests and run upstairs to check on his father, not once in his narrative does he admit to feeling stress or sadness. However, both Reginald Cardinal and Lord Darlington ask if Stevens is all right, and Lord Darlington even remarks that Stevens looks as though he has been crying. It is only through these remarks that we realize Stevens is upset, as his own narrative gives no indication. We learn through this instance that Stevens is not a wholly reliable narrator, as he does not always say how he is honestly feeling. The fact that Stevens does not admit, even in retrospect, that he was upset shows how deeply the denial of his emotions is ingrained in him. In moments like these, Stevens treats us, as readers, just as he treats his employer or the guests: he does not want us to be bothered by his grief, even though his father is on his deathbed upstairs. Even after his father his dead, Stevens hardly takes a moment to grieve, immediately asking the doctor to attend to the insufferable M. Dupont's sore feet.

The importance of the concept of dignity comes to light again in this section of the novel, as all of Stevens's actions are guided by his pursuit of dignity. As always, Stevens's first duty is to ensure the smooth running of the household, even if this necessitates his absence from his father's deathbed. The extreme to which Stevens negates his own emotions in this section becomes excruciatingly painful when we learn—through the comments of Reginald Cardinal and Lord Darlington—that Stevens is suffering. Ironically, the moments when Stevens feels he is being "unprofessional" are those when he seems most human, and when we can best relate to him.

Miss Kenton, in this section, is shown to be a character upon whom we may depend, much as Stevens, however unwittingly, depends upon her. It is she, not Stevens, who notices that his father's ability is waning, and who forces Stevens to realize this fact, despite his efforts to deny it. Indeed, Miss Kenton does not have the blind spots that Stevens does. Yet she also understands, to some degree, Stevens's commitment to his profession, as she is also an excellent and devoted housekeeper. When Stevens's father is dying, Miss Kenton stays with the old man when Stevens must attend to matters downstairs, and it is she who closes his father's eyes after he passes away.