I am having a bit of trouble understanding the bolded portion of this quote from The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro:

I had got no further by the time I came to have my first business meeting with Mr. Farraday during the short preliminary visit he made to our shores in the spring of last year. It was on that occasion--in the strangely bare study of Darlington Hall--that Mr. Farraday shook my hand for the first time, but by then we were hardly strangers to each other; quite aside from the matter of the staff, my new employer in several instances had had occasion to call upon such qualities as it may be my good fortune to possess and found them to be, I would venture, dependable (Ishiguro, p. 6).

Out of context, I might have interpreted this quote as the narrator stating that Mr. Farraday had previously praised ("call upon") his character and/or skills ("qualities"). However, the narrator is a butler for an estate and Mr. Farraday is the new owner, and given the fact they had not previously met in person, this interpretation does not seem to be correct.

Instead, I think the narrator means to say Mr. Farraday had previously requested ("call upon") the narrator's services ("qualities"), which could have been done before they met in person. In this context, the description of the narrator's "qualities" as "dependable" also makes a bit more sense. However, it does feel odd to use the word "qualities" to mean "services."

Is my interpretation correct? And if so, is there a reason behind the word choice?

  • Your interpretation is incorrect. The passage states Mr. Farraday shook my hand for the first time, but by then we were hardly strangers to each other so the passage is definitely referring to Mr Farraday. What has happened is that the narrator and Mr Farraday have communicated by some means (letter? telephone? Skype? it depends on the period) and the narrator has performed tasks for his new boss. It's just that they had not previously met in the flesh.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 13, 2021 at 7:32
  • @BoldBen I might be misunderstanding you, but how is that different from my second interpretation, where the word "qualities" means "services"?
    – Frank
    Sep 14, 2021 at 5:23
  • Oh god, I somehow wrote "Mr. Fitzgerald" instead of "Mr. Farraday." Will correct that.
    – Frank
    Sep 14, 2021 at 5:24

1 Answer 1


Almost but not quite. In this sentences, the meaning is

a characteristic or feature of someone or something:

Which in practice would have the same effect. If he had the ability to judge which wine to serve, calling on this ability is not in practice something different that asking him, as a service, to choose which wine to serve. But in meaning it's different.

  • I see! That makes sense, thank you.
    – Frank
    Sep 14, 2021 at 5:20

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