Never Let Me Go
A Book Review sans Spoilers: Never Let Me Go
Throughout the novel, Ishiguro depicts several situations in which Kathy as an individual being still asks herself who she is. Even Though she gives the reader a description of herself right in the beginning of her story “My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years”, she still struggles to understand the world around herself. The way Ishiguro depicts these clones in his book has many parallels with Giorgio Agamben’s concept of the homo sacer. As already mentioned the homo sacer is a subject “who may be killed and yet not sacrificed, and whose essential function in modern politics we intend to assert”. According to Agamben described in his work Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, we as human beings as subjects are the embodiment of the homo sacer. Reflecting upon the depiction of the subjects in Ishiguro’s novel makes this idea more comprehensible. Just like the homo sacer, Kathy and her fellow clones at some time of their life have to donate their organs and die, and therefore are be killed without anyone in society disapproving. In addition to that, the clones are exiled from society living in Hailsham and without knowledge of purpose in it. They are being reduced to their bare life, only their physical and biological integrity are being paid attention to. The point of not being sacrificed applies in this case as well. The term sacred is ambiguous because, on the one hand, it means to be protected because it is religious, but in regard to Agamen and the characters in the book, it refers to being outside of society. It is not only the pure definition that applies to the characters of Ishiguro’s story but the origins of the state which allows for this kind of situation.
According to Agamben, the ‘biopolitical paradigm is responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the twentieth century”. In simple words, Kathy reveals memories that gradually form the image of a state-sponsored cruel project, the image of a society that has at some point decided that not everyone has the same right of self-determination. The Hailsham students are educated to accept the fateful decisions of the higher powers. The children of Hailsham are anonymously created clones created to donate their organs as adults. Society regards them as property and ultimately lawless human material, as Jennings states “Ishiguro reminds us of the terrible cost of dehumanization and oppression that all of us, not only those who are oppressed, must pay”. The domination of the sovereign over the bare life, the so-called biopolitics, play a central role in Kathy’s life. Thus, under the conditions of biopolitics, the arenas of the political are not limited to the places of institutionalized politics in parliaments, governments or in the political public. Rather, biopolitics takes place in medical practices, at work, and in the most intimate decisions and desires about sexual partners and practices. This case is carefully examined in Kathy’s story, the impact of biopolitics is seen in every aspect of her life. As Kathy states “Here was the world, requiring students to donate”, Biopolitics is always directed not primarily at legal subjects, but at humans as living beings; not to a constitutive people, but to a population. Conversely, life also transforms under biopolitical conditions. The students of Hailsham did not only have to follow the rules of politics but rules that are set in every sphere of their life. Life is no longer the presupposition of politics, as in Greek antiquity, which had distinguished between mere life ‘zoe’ and political existence ‘bios’.
In Foucault’s words: “biological existence was reflected in political existence. Power would no longer be dealing simply with legal subjects over whom the ultimate dominion was death, but with living beings, and the mastery it would be able to exercise over them would have to be applied at the level of life itself; it was the taking charge of life, more than the threat of death, that gave power its access even to the body”.
Life itself becomes a political problem. Storrow points out that “Ishiguro makes use of these perspectives to imagine a governmental program wherein human clones are created, husbanded, and killed for the use of their vital organs in medical treatment”. Therefore you can say that Kathy can be seen as an embodiment of the homo sacer under the power of biopolitics and actually can be seen as a reflection of the world we live in.
Never Let Me Go examines the question of humanity and the subject making ourselves ask once more who we really are. Taking into account the concept of the homo sacer by Giorgio Agamben and the circumstances of biopolitics you can say that these ideas reflect and give an answer to this question. The example of Kathy, a living being who is destined to live a predetermined life as a clone who has to give her organs away, might sound a bit dystopian and futuristic. But as Ishiguro expressed his concerns in a 2016 interview with the Guardian saying that “we are on the brink of all kinds of discoveries that will completely alter the way we run our lives”, he already is foreshadowing our future in his novel. Ishiguro might not give us a concrete answer to the question of who we are, but regarding Agamben’s definition of the subject in our present time, we can take Ishiguro’s novel as a reminder that we maybe will never find the answer to this question. Observing our own lives can make us aware of things that are going wrong in our society and give us an opportunity to change these.
Never Let Me Go’ a Wonderful Story-Dystopia
In the second half of Never Let Me Go, by Ishiguro Kazo, readers are able to see how Kathy changes as she grows up. For example, she becomes much more determined and sticks to what she says. She explains, “It wasn’t long after I made my decision, and once I’d made it, I never wavered. I just got up one morning and told Keffers I wanted to start my training to become a carer”. Kathy is annoyed at Ruth for forgetting incidents at Hailsham and telling her that Tommy would never love her. She instantly decides to start her carer training, and never thinks twice about changing her mind. As Kathy becomes older, she stays very caring and compassionate. In the beginning of the novel, she cares for Tommy, and helps him with his anger issues, when nobody else will. As a carer, Kathy is still very caring and puts her patient’s needs before herself. She says, “I don’t claim I’ve been immune to all of this, but I’ve learnt to live with it.
Some carers, though, their whole attitude lets them down…It really gets to me too, the way so many of them ‘shrink’ the moment they step inside a hospital. They don’t know what to say to the white coats; they can’t make themselves speak up on behalf of their donor”. She learns to live with the constant reminder of becoming a donor, in order to help her patients to the best of her abilities.Ruth changes as well, in the second half of the novel, after she becomes a donor. Instead of fighting back, when Kathy and Tommy oppose what she was saying, she just stands there and accepts it. Kathy explains, “It wasn’t simply that we had ganged up on Ruth: it was the way she’d just taken it. In the old days, it was inconceivable she’d have let something like that happen without striking back”. As Ruth’s body becomes weaker, due to donations, so does her mind. She does not have the strength to say something cunning, or fight back. She also has grown up and realizes that it okay and not worth it to make a bigger issue. Ruth also feels guilty for keeping Kathy and Tommy from having a relationship. She says, “But I kept you too apart…What I want is to put it right. Put it right for what I messed up for you”.
Ruth feels immense guilt for holding Tommy and Kathy back, and gives them the idea of getting a deferral, so they can spend some time together before completing. She even goes out of her way to find Madame’s address, in order for Kathy and Tommy to ask for a deferral.Over the course of the novel, Tommy becomes very hopeful. He creates a plan to use his animal drawings to get a deferral, first for Ruth, and then for Kathy. That way, they could live a happy life together for a few years before completing. Tommy was never good at art, so at the cottages he improves his skills by drawing very intricate animals, to impress Madame. “The thing is, I’m doing them really small. Tiny. I’d never thought of that at Hailsham. I think maybe that’s where I went wrong”. However, this hopefulness and belief, causes him to be heartbroken and disappointed when hefinds out that deferrals are not real. Tommy gets really angry, just as he would when he was a child at Hailsham. Kathy says, “The moon wasn’t quite full, but it was bright enough, and I could make out in the mid-distance, near where the field began to fall away, Tommy’s figure, raging, shouting, flinging his fists and kicking about”. This shows how upset and angry he was, as he had not been really angry like that in years. The theme of identity and figuring out who you are, is evident in the second half of Never Let Me Go.
Finding your possible isimportant to the clones, as they are able to see who they actually are.After realizing that Ruth’s possible is definitely not who she was cloned from, she gets really upset. She says, “We’re modeled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just as long as they aren’t psychos…If you want to look for possibles, if you want to do it properly, then you look in the gutter”. Ruth believes that they were all copied from bad people, as they would be the only ones willing to be cloned. This shows that Ruth does not see herself as a nice woman working in an office anymore, becauseshe sees herself as trash. The theme of identity is also evident when Kathy and Tommy are speaking with Madame and Miss Emily at the end of the novel. Miss Emily explains that they collected the children’s art at Hailsham to prove that they have identities, in order to give them a better life. She says, “We took your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all”. By proving that clones had souls, Miss Emily and Madame were able to provide them with something other clones were not receiving; an education and a happy childhood.Another theme portrayed in this novel is the importance of friendship. Since these children are clones, they only have themselves to confide in and rely on.
In the beginning of the novel, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are close friends. After Kathy starts her training to become a carer, they start to drift apart. When Kathy becomes Ruth’s carer, Ruth convinces her to go see an abandoned boat, near Tommy’s centre. Kathy explains, “Ruth kept bringing it up, and our plans somehow grew firmer, until in the end, I sent a message to Tommy’s carer…”Ruth wants her and Kathy to meet up with Tommy, so she can mend their relationship, as she was the one to ruin it. When Kathy and Ruth meet Tommy for the first time in years, they still seem very close. Even though they still bicker and choose sides, they always help each other out. Kathy explains, “Tommy and I, we remembered what had happened in the car, when we’d more or less ganged up on her. And almost as an instinct, we both went to her. I took an arm, Tommy supported her elbow on the other side, and we began gently guiding her towards the fence”. This shows how strong the bonds are between these three friends, and how they will always be there for each other, no matter what.I can connect the way adults feel about children in Never Let Me Go, to the novel The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken. InThe Darkest Minds, a deadly disease has killed most of the children in America, and the ones that survived have special powers, such as pyrokinesis and telekinesis.
The adults living in America are afraid of these children, and put them into internment camps, to keep themselves safe. In Never Let Me Go the guardians and teachers were afraid of the clones at Hailsham. Miss Emily says, “We’re all afraid of you. I myself had to fight back my dread of you almost every day I was as Hailsham”. The adults are afraid of the clones, because they are different, just as the adults in The Darkest Minds were afraid of the children with powers.I can also connect the theme of friendship in Never Let Me Go, and The Darkest Minds. In The Darkest Minds, the children have to create strong friendship bonds, as they only have each other to rely on, in the internment camps. For example, the main character Ruby has three friends. They always trust each other, and help each otherout, no matter what. Never Let Me Go is very similar, in the sense that the clones have no families, and can only confide in each other.Even though Kathy, Tommy and Ruth have ups and downs, they have close bonds, and their friendship is very important to them.
In both novels, the main characters are missing their families, which intensifies their friendships.A symbol in the second half of Never Let Me Go, is the beached boat that Kathy, Tommy and Ruth go see. A boat is usually a symbol of freedom, however, in this novel, it symbolizes the lack of freedom, as it is beached and unable to move. This connects to Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, as their futures are already decided for them, and they do not have the freedom to choose. In addition, the boat and the marshes surrounding the boat foreshadow the future for these three friends. Kathy says, “…You could see here and there ghostly dead tree trunks poking out of the soil, most of them broken off only a few feet up”. These dead tree trunks foreshadow the inevitable deaths of Ruth, Tommy and eventually Kathy. Another symbol in this novel is Hailsham. Hailsham represents innocence. The children at Hailsham were very innocent, and did not know anything about what the future has in store for them. Miss Emily says, “But we sheltered you during those years, and we gave you your childhoods”. Hailsham used as a way to preserve the innocence of the clones as long as possible. After leaving Hailsham, their innocence was destroyed, as they learned more about being a carer and a donor.
Review On The Book “Never Let Me Go”
When I was first introduced to this story in the form of a movie back in 2010, I assumed the story only revolved around three friends Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, and the love triangle that takes place between the three of them. I thought the theme to be a coming of age story, and that there was nothing more to it. However, I was proven wrong when I picked up the book for the first time this June. Towards the end of the novel, I was devastated to realise what Kazuo Ishiguro may have tried to hint at, was that in the world this story takes place, no amount of hope will change the fate of the lives of these individuals who were brought up at Hailsham. The life that was gifted to them belonged to Hailsham and its cruel dictatorship. Much like the lives of Bangladeshis that belong to the persistently oppressive government, where there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, and the chaos seems to live on forever.
If I were asked about the characters I thought to be the key movers of the plot line, the first name I would take would be Kathy H. Let’s face it, a novel that starts with, “My name is Kathy H.” is a dead giveaway that this character will have quite a lot to contribute to the storyline, and so she does. She is the narrator of the story, it is through her eyes we see the plot unfold. The second key mover would be Tommy D, not because of his infamous skill of throwing tantrums, but because of the conversation he has with Kathy by the pond in chapter three. He reveals to Kathy why his demeanor changed all of a sudden, this makes Kathy start questioning everything a lot more than she used to before. The third and final key mover of the storyline, according to my judgement, would undoubtedly be Miss Lucy. Though her ideologies are met with zero tolerance by Miss Emily, resulting in Miss Lucy getting fired early on in the book, the conversation she has with Tommy D, where she tells him that it’s okay to not be creative, changes Tommy entirely. It somehow manages to mellow Tommy down. This sparks curiosity amongst his peers, and a search for the truth begins.
As the story progresses, I found myself intrigued by Madame Marie-Claude’s character. She is first introduced as the lady who occasionally visits Hailsham and leaves with the best artwork of the clones. Her “Gallery” is mentioned multiple times throughout the book, it is where their artwork is believed to be displayed. One confrontation with her convinces the clones that Madame is disgusted by their very existence. It is later revealed that she fights for the clones to be treated humanely, and that the purpose of her displaying their artwork is to make the outside world believe clones have souls too. At one point in the novel, Kazuo even dares to tell us that Madame Marie-Claude went into debt trying to keep Hailsham open. Somewhat similar to the characteristics of an anti-hero, by the end of the novel, we are left questioning Madame’s motives behind doing what she did. How can someone shudder at the idea of coming in contact with clones, but at the same time, love them so deeply to have risk it all to ensure a care facility, such as Hailsham, for them?
Though we get a glimpse into the friendship of Kathy and Ruth in the very first chapter, as they grow up together, it can be assumed that Kathy has unconsciously accepted Ruth as her constant. She joins in on the laughter when Ruth jokes about Tommy’s drawings, even when Kathy thinks they are quite beautiful. She also sets her feelings for Tommy aside when she realises Ruth has developed feelings for Tommy as well. Moreover, whenever Kathy and Ruth gets into a fight, Kathy often becomes the pushover and doesn’t stand her ground. When Ruth begins her donations, she confesses that she kept Kathy and Tommy apart intentionally and tries to convince them to apply for a deferral. The toxic relationship Kathy and Ruth share at the beginning of the novel, evolves into one with more acceptance and understanding towards the end.
The part of the story that I loved the most was when Kathy recalls Tommy finding her with a stash of pornographic magazines, and then proceeds to advise Kathy on how to enjoy them properly. Little does Tommy know, Kathy doesn’t care about anything that’s beneath the face of the models. Kathy had an inkling that they were cloned from prostitutes and junkies, hence she often skimmed through these magazines in hopes of finding the original version of herself. On the other hand, the part that bothered me the most sort of existed throughout the entire story, it is the fact that the fate of these individuals was decided from the moment they were cultivated. There was no running away from donations, there was no running away from a life that was anything but the bearer of dreams.
To end this review, I’m leaving three of my favorite quotes from the book and brief explanations of why I deem them as favorites.
“We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.”
This quote tugged at my heartstrings, made me abhor Kazuo Ishiguro for completely nullifying the point of these clones donating in the first place. The main idea behind cultivating clones is to cheat death by accepting donations from them, and ensuring longevity of the general population. But after reading this line, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the clones really needed to be subjected to such a brutal donation process in the first place, when the receiver is destined to eventually face death as well.
“All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma.”
This line spoke to me. I had a very troubled childhood, grew up in a dysfunctional family, and often found asking myself if I were brought up inside a bubble, with my parents trying to hide the fact that they were in an unhappy marriage, and keeping all the loud, brutal confrontations out of my eyesight, would I have turned out differently? A little less pessimistic, and a bit happier, perhaps?
“I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart.”
For me, this portrayed the cycle of life. People come and go; while some choose to stay, others leave. We shed skins, grow out of the company we keep, because we constantly change. The people we couldn’t imagine life without, sometimes end up being the very people we cannot imagine a life with. It’s a sad reality, but it is what it is.
Main Ideas Of Never Let Me Go Movie
The Science and Themes of Never Let Me Go (and Gattaca)
Most science fiction films involving human clones take place hundreds of years in the future, where technology is far ahead of what society has now and the world looks completely foreign in comparison to today. Although this futuristic approach can make for a great movie, it is less unsettling for viewers because they aren’t able to relate as deeply to the characters and their environment because the world the film takes place in is so different from their own. This makes the 2010 film Never Let Me Go, based off the 2005 novel of the same name, a unique and disturbing portrayal of human cloning and the ethics behind it. Instead of taking a futuristic approach to cloning, Never Let Me Go takes place between the 1970-90s. This makes it more unnerving for viewers, especially since cloning is something that has already been successfully done. Never Let Me Go ties together several themes and science throughout a thought-provoking and emotionally stimulating film.
Never Let Me Go’s themes include fate and combating societal oppressions. Gattaca (1997) shares these themes with Never Let Me Go. Both main characters, Vincent and Kathy, respectively, are born into a society that has already decided their life and worth. Vincent was born genetically inferior to the rest of society since his DNA was not optimized, so when his DNA was tested at workplaces, he was unable to get the job since they could see his genetic defects. Kathy is “born” as a clone, and her only purpose is to grow up healthy so as an adult, her organs can be harvested and donated. Vincent does not want to work gutter jobs and live as a lowlife in society, and he has dreams of going to space. He takes the identity of someone else with superior DNA to his, and goes to extreme measures to live the life he dreamed of that society deemed impossible for him. Kathy is told that if a set of clones can prove they’re in love, they will be freed from “donating” their organs. Her and her beau work incredibly hard to try to fight against the system and to not end up dying due to their “donations,”even though ultimately there is no way to avoid it and they fail.
One example of science in the film is a major point in the film; they’re clones. Cloning is an often used trope in science fiction, but it isn’t fiction at all, and the use of cloning and questioning the ethics of it in the movie were very relevant in the time period the movie is based in. The last few decades of the 1900s were full of cloning experiments and successes, most notable being Dolly the sheep being successfully cloned in 1996 (Brief). The film starts with captions of a medical breakthrough in 1952 that allowed human lifespans to be extended. The same year, in reality, was the year that Robert Briggs and Thomas King attempted to clone a frog. The experiment was unsuccessful, but it was the first attempt at cloning using similar methods to how cloning is done today (Brief). Cloning is done by removing DNA from inside of cells and replacing them with the DNA of another. This is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (Saey). Although cloning is a real scientific principle, and human cloning has the potential to be done, it has not been executed yet (Cloning). In this way, the movie is not completely grounded to real life science in this aspect, however, the idea of human cloning is very possible and almost certain to happen in the not-too-distant future.
Another example of the science in this movie is the clones being used for organ collecting to be donated to non-clone citizens. Although human clones are not being used for organ donations, other animals are being considered, as discussed in class. Scientists are looking to grow human organs inside of pigs to be used for those in need of organ transplants. Advancements are currently being made; scientists have used CRISPR to remove viruses from inside pig cells so the viruses can’t be given to humans through transplants (Saey). The process has not been perfected yet, and will need more time to advance, but soon, there will be life produced for the sole purpose of donating organs to humans.
For the science used in this movie, although it is probable, it isn’t heavily discussed in the movie and the process is not explained, so I would rate it 3 test tubes out of 5. For the plot, character dynamics, sets, and entertainment, I would rate the film 5 popcorn kernels out of 5 because of the quality and how ethically and emotionally stimulating it is.
In one scene of the movie, the main character Kathy and her love interest Tommy have realized that there is nothing they can do to avoid their organ donations and their death. They’re driving on a road in the evening in silence, and Tommy asks Kathy to pull over, he gets out of the car, and just screams. Kathy gets out to comfort him, and there is a very beautiful moment where the lights of the car cause them to be silhouettes with her holding him. This focuses the viewer on the two of them, shrouded in darkness and having nothing but each other. Sad music also begins to play, enhances the depressing mood of the scene. This scene elicits empathy in the viewer and causes them to feel hopeless like the characters do.
Another moment in the film is when the clone children are in class at the school they attend, and a teacher admits to them that none of them have any voice in their lives and that their fate has already been decided. The lighting is slightly dark and there is a slight grey cast over everything. This makes a very ominous and unnatural feeling in the viewer, alerting them that something is wrong with the place the children are in. The camera switches between the view of the students and the view of the teacher, showing the children’s blank expressions as they fail to understand her. This is important because it lets the audience know that the children are too young to understand their situation and their doom.
Humankind And Its Rudeness in Never Let Me Go Novel
In Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Ishiguro comments on the human tendency to choose ignorance through silence in order to maintain bliss. There are multiple forms of willful ignorance portrayed throughout the novel including the personal issues of sex and virginity and the social issues concerning organ donations (the situation most predominantly commented on). In these cases, the donors often shy away from pressing for information when they sense they do not want to know the answers to their questions. As children in the beginning of the novel, the donors were observed doing everything in their power to avoid the subject of their fate, going as far as punishing classmates who asked the guardians questions. As they got older, they slowly began speaking about the donations however this was done in an extremely passive way. They discussed the donations mainly in a joking fashion and described the process of donating as unzipping a bit of themselves and simply handing over an organ. Not once throughout the novel do the donors truly speak about the consequences of the donation process. This suggests that willful ignorance is a mechanism through which social injustices are perpetuated. As donors, their biggest dream is to be granted a three year deferral, a gift that no average human being would accept as a blessing. A significant cause of this is the deception or in most cases utter silence and denial that the guardians present to the donors. By describing life threatening surgeries as “donations” and their death as a “completion” the guardians invalidate the true ramifications of being born a donor. Through these various situations, Ishiguro depicts humankind’s inclination towards choosing ignorance through deception and silence in order to maintain happiness.
Scenes That Illustrate the Heart of the Novel
When Miss Lucy tells the children that it is much worse for them to smoke than it is for her, nobody asks her the question that is on everybody’s mind (Ishiguro 68). Why is it so much worse for them? This passive resistance to learning more about their own futures contributes to a better understanding of the characters and their desire to remain blissfully unaware .
When Miss Lucy tells the children the truth about their lives after Hailsham (Ishiguro 81), it is the first time that anyone is being honest with them and telling them about the reality of their futures. However, instead of being intrigued and wanting to learn more as would be expected, the children are relieved when she stops talking and later on do not talk much about what Miss Lucy has told them. Again, a better understanding of the characters is gained through their choice to not think about their devastating fates and simply brush them aside in order to feel untroubled.
When Ruth says out loud that the donors are all cloned after “trash” (Ishiguro 166-167), although it is what everybody else has been thinking for a long time, it marks a turning point in the novel. As shown in the past, the characters cope with difficult situations by simply not confronting them. When they have to admit to each other that they are the clones of the lowest people in society, they are no longer able to ignore it and that makes it much more real.
Miss Emily tells Kathy and Tommy that she has allowed the rumor of the deferral to continue because it causes no harm and gives the donors something to dream about (Ishiguro 258). This contributes to the understanding of the guardians and the way in which they guardians keep information from the donors in an attempt to leave them blissfully ignorant. While they believe they are doing the right thing, in the end they cause the donors even more heartbreak and pain than if they had know the truth from the beginning.
When Miss Emily discusses Miss Lucy and her mistaken views on preparing the children for what their future brings, it reiterates the pre existing understanding of the Hailsham guardians and their overarching goal to keep the donors from finding out the truth about their fate. Since Miss Lucy’s approach involved informing the children about their their horrific destiny rather than “protecting” them from the horror, Miss Lucy was fired from Hailsham. (Ishiguro 267-268).
The scene begins with a close up of Miss Lucy’s face in the center of the screen. This technique is used in order to portray Miss Lucy’s inner dilemma. Her desire to tell the children about their futures, but at the same time knowing that the other guardians at Hailsham would not approve of her doing so. The high contrast lighting, with harsh shafts of light and dramatic streaks of blackness, are used to highlight the importance of this dramatic moment. When the anxious music begins playing in the background, it foreshadows the important scene that is about to occur in an otherwise casual situation. The fact that Miss Lucy is wearing white while the children are wearing black, emphasizes the extreme difference between the life that clones are expected to live and the lives regular humans live. It also foreshadows the long life that Miss Lucy has ahead of her compared to the short life span and imminent death of the clones. The sudden pounding of the rain on the veranda is used to stress the intense situation at hand and the extreme level of tenseness and unease that both Miss Lucy and the children feel during the conversation. The low angle and deep focus shot of Miss Lucy and the children being placed near the bottom of the frame is done in order to give the impression of Miss Lucy looming over the children and their powerlessness and impending death. This highlights the fact that the children were born into a lower status in society than Miss Lucy was born into. The ending shot of this scene is a zoom shot to a close up of Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy’s faces. Not only does the zoom shot give the gut wrenching sense of being plunged into the world of the donors but the close up elevates the importance of the feelings of the children. The combined effect of using these techniques creates a feeling of sympathy for the children and their ignorance towards their futures.
The scene begins with Kathy and Tommy being closer to the sea on lower ground while Ruth is looking down on them from high ground farther inland. Kathy and Tommy’s placement not only suggest their vulnerability to Ruth’s harsh words but it also positions them closer to danger than Ruth. There is a public distance maintained between Ruth versus Kathy and Tommy. This not only evokes the sense of physical distance but also a distance between their personal desires. The giant wave hitting the shore as Ruth yells hurtful obscenities emphasizes the intensity of the situation, while the water spraying over only Kathy and Tommy is symbolic of the way the two display more pain from Ruth’s words than Ruth does. The camera then proceeds to reveal a close up of Ruth’s face and portrays the hate that she is feeling not only towards Kathy and Tommy but also towards the situation that they have been born into. Next, the deep focus shot of Ruth as she walk away gives a sense of the extreme distance between her and Kathy and Tommy not only in the physical sense but also the distance she has built between herself and the two of them by bringing up information that everybody knows but does not want to face because they have choosen to maintain blissfully ignorant. The rocks crunching under her feet, accentuating her every step and the seagulls crying out in the distance mark the ending of a painful scene. The ending image of a high angle shot of Tommy and Kathy standing together reiterates what Ruth has just said, that they are trivial and insignificant beings, coming from no more than trash itself. The low key lighting at the ending marks the close of the scene and the end of the search for their possibles in any civilized setting.
The scene is established with a pans scan of the room beginning from Kathy and Tommy to Miss Emily. This is done in order to reveal Miss Emily in a way that evokes a sense of surprise and astonishment. The shadows create an element of mystery from the moment that Kathy and Tommy walk into the house. When Miss Emily emerges from the darkness of the shadows and into the light, it marks the end to their mystery of what lies in the shadows but also the infamous deferrals they are about to learn the truth about. Miss Emily is viewed from a low angle in order to create the sense that she is threateningly looming over Kathy and Tommy who in turn, feel a certain level of awe and fear for Miss Emily. The phone suddenly sounding at a high pitched ring stresses the suspense and tension of the scene as Kathy and Tommy await to find out if they will be spared three more years of their short lives. This is followed by an extreme close up of Miss Emily’s eyes which emphasize her taking in every detail of Kathy and Tommy. The sad look in her eyes evokes a sense of loss. The camera then turns to an extreme close up of Kathy and Tommy holding hands symbolizing their love for each other. Sad music begins playing in the background as they both become aware of the lack of hope in Miss Emily’s eyes. The parting scene is an extreme close up of Kathy and Tommy letting go of each other’s hands which symbolizes their realization that there is no escape from being born a clone and the end of all the hope they maintained throughout their lives by never asking the difficult questions.
Similiarities Of Brave New World And Never Let Me Go Novels
The novels Brave New World and Never Let Me Go share the major themes of identity, individuality, and humanity, and both books present to their audience what happens to these ideas – ones that make up the core of our society – when we use science to attempt to achieve a harmonious utopia.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley describes a fictional world with features of both a dystopia and a utopia in which science is used to create a more effective humankind and their sustained survival. Individuality exists only in what you are scientifically assigned to be from birth – test-tube embryos are assigned castes (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon), and only the upper two castes are given the best treatment so that they may become world-leaders, scientists, and other great thinkers. Lower caste embryos are cloned via the Bokanovsky Process, which involves shocking embryos so that they divide and produce many identical clone embryos so that they develop into identical human beings, predestined to perform menial tasks. The most basic ideas of humanity such as parenthood and appreciation of nature are diluted and reprogrammed through “Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning” to create a society that is efficient and stable. Similarly, Never Let Me Go also contains themes of medical science being used to further the progress and stability of humanity, however in a less advanced way that can be considered to still have elements of individuality and humanity – humans are cloned and these clones are raised separately, in worse conditions (bar the case of our main protagonists), so that their organs may be used for donation to “regular” humans should they get a disease that would otherwise be incurable or difficult to cure. Although there is very little insight given into the cloning process and its origins in the world of Never Let Me Go compared to Brave New World, we find out that the clones of the former tend to be modelled from undesirable people. This leaves the characters with an identity crisis; it leaves them wondering whom their ‘original’ is and whether they would walk a similar path were their future as a donor not already chosen for them.
Huxley wrote Brave New World in 1931, during a time when science, technology and industrialism was on the rise. He was raised in an academic family and received extremely high quality education – he was also very wary of the potential issues of scientific advancement, something that is very evident from this novel, which almost prophesizes issues with science and morality brought up in the 20th century by, for example, the totalitarian Nazi party, whose scientists performed many inhumane experiments. These issues continue to be brought up in the 21st century by things such as controversial stem cell research. Ishiguro was born in Japan but raised in England, where he received mentorship from acclaimed writer Angela Carter after studying creative writing at university. Never Let Me Go was published in 2005, and also addresses contemporary issues raised by such things as the legislation permitting the aforementioned stem cell research, which was passed in 2001 in the United Kingdom and began passing in 2004 in the New Jersey and California in the United States. When published, both novels raised the question of “how far is too far” when it comes to science and humanity.
One of the primary ways the flaws of using inhumane scientific methods for the advancement of mankind is presented in both novels is through the feelings and thoughts of the main characters. In Brave New World, even the brainwashed and programmed alphas have their vices – for example, The Director, who is the administrator of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre in which children are born and raised (so to speak) has fathered a child naturally – something considered extremely unusual and shameful in the World State society. Because of this, Linda, the mother of the Director’s son, is considered a social outcast, and as a result she was too ashamed to leave New Mexico and return to the World State. Even Helmholtz Watson – who is essentially a prime example of an Alpha, feels his work as a lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering is meaningless and empty – that he is wasting his potential and his ability, which is proved when he says “Did you ever feel, as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out? Some sort of extra power that you aren’t using – you know, like all the water that goes down the falls instead of through the turbines” Through characters like this, Huxley shows that attempting complete stability through the removal of individuality and human instinct is in itself, unstable, as it is in our core nature to be curious and to want more in life, as shown by the “mistakes” made by powerful alphas. Similarly, the ruminations of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth in Never Let Me Go about identity and their discussions on what it means to be a clone: “We all know it, we’re modelled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps” show the dissatisfaction with the system that even the “better off” clones have. In fact, they are not even content having a higher quality of life than the other clones, which is evidenced when Kathy says “Why did we do all of that work in the first place (…) if we’re just going to give donations then die?” Another example from Never Let Me Go would be Miss Emily and Madame, the founders of Hailsham school who are advocates for humane treatment of clones – clearly not every “regular” human is content with the idea that human beings will be born and raised only to be harvested for their organs as adults. This is similar to controversial real-world issues such as abortion, cloning, and stem cell research.
Setting plays a particularly important role in Brave New World. Huxley’s novel is one of Utopian science-fiction. He creates an incredibly elaborate setting with precise details about everything from technology (“vibro-vacuum massager”) to professions (“Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning) to play activities (“Centrifugal Bumble-puppy”). Some parts of the earth, however, remain as they were before the World State came to power. With Bernard and Lenina, you visit one of these Savage Reservations, the New Mexican home of the Zuni Indians. It is a world away from civilized London: the Zunis are impoverished, dirty, ravaged by disease and old age, and still cling to their ancient religion. Huxley shows the reader two extremes of human living conditions – a precisely controlled environment where natural human instinct is inhibited through brainwashing and drugs, and a place where there is a distinct lack of technology reminiscent of real-life tribes. Clearly, Huxley is using this juxtaposition of societies – one of which lacks good health and the other which lacks natural human behaviour and emotions, to imply that there is an ideal middle ground between these two states in which humanity can live comfortably without sacrificing identity, or running the risk of deadly diseases due to lack of medicine. In Never Let Me Go. The main settings are the boarding school, Hailsham, and The Cottages – a communal set of buildings situated on an old farm. It is where the three main characters go to live at the age of sixteen until they begin training to become carers. Unlike Brave New World, the settings here are made to be somewhat relatable for the reader, with only small differences to the reality of modern day England. In both novels, there are different groups separated by the way they live, and where they live – Brave New World’s “savages” are somewhat more relatable than the World Staters as their lives are simply more similar to ours – they feel normal emotions, reproduce naturally, and experience disease and old age, whereas the clones of World State barely show shades of humanity – they are almost robot-like in their hive-mind desire to be efficient and stable (although as we know this falls apart on an individual level, even among the alphas).
In Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro writes in the first person from the perspective of Kathy – he uses it here to limit the knowledge of the reader, and only bit by bit is it revealed that the world Kathy lives in is very different from our own. However Kathy is not an unreliable narrator – the lack of details is due to an unknowing reader, as from her point of view, she is speaking to the reader as if they have experienced life as a clone: when telling us about the care at Hailsham, she says: “I don’t know how it was where you were, but at Hailsham we used to have some form of medical every week.”
As in many Utopian novels, the characters of Brave New World tend to be simple representations of ideas and behaviours and an “outsider” character is used to highlight the flaws of the society that those who live in it cannot comprehend to it being the status quo for them. The structure of Brave New World is fairly unusual, which is characteristic of Huxley’s fiction writing. The beginning of the book introduces Bernard as the main character and through him we learn about the World State – this is contrasted with the middle section in which we are introduced to the “real” main character, John, and the Savage Reservation in New Mexico, which is wildly different to Brave New World’s London. The third part of the novel chronicles the clashing together of John’s life, behaviours and beliefs with that of the World State. Because it is conventional to introduce main characters at the beginning of novels, Huxley’s strange structure may lead some to believe that Bernard is the main character – but just as we learn how cowardly he is, he is switched out for John, who comparatively appears heroic, and introduces a second perspective, likely more similar to that of the reader’s, on London and the World State.
John is a very unique character who provides the reader with interesting insight as he has incredibly extensive knowledge of the works of Shakespeare, and it was his only window to civilised life when he was in New Mexico. Due to this, every aspect of him – his emotions, reactions, speech, and attitude are all heavily influenced by Shakespeare. Through this Shakespearean frame on which to base his frustrations and criticisms, we see his critical view of the World State and it’s values. It also provides John with the linguistic skills required to debate with Mustapha Mond when they meet. However, John’s constant Shakespeare-vision occasionally mean he doesn’t fully comprehend the complexity of other characters, for instance, Lenina, who in his mind is sometimes a hero, and sometimes a “strumpet” – neither label quite captures the complexity of her character however.
Using the examples of our main characters we see that Ishiguro builds his dystopian/utopian world by revealing it bit by bit to us through Kathy’s reminiscing. Our opinion of the clone system in the world of Never Let Me Go is carefully moulded by having Kathy narrate as though the reader is also a clone we have the same experience she has had in learning what it means to be a clone, however in Brave New World, we experience the world from different perspectives, which gives more room for the reader’s personal views.
In Margaret Atwood’s article on Brave New World, she calls it “a masterpiece of speculation” and talks about Huxley’s portrayal of the positives and negatives of so-called Utopias. Comparing it to Orwell’s 1984 but with “a different and softer form of totalitarianism”, Atwood discusses the prophetic merits of both novels, noting of Brave New World that “On the wilder fringes of the genetic engineering community, there are true believers prattling of the gene-rich and the gene-poor – Huxley’s alphas and epsilons” and “in 1989 (…) we seemed to be in for a trivial, giggly, drug-enhanced spend-o-rama.” Clearly from a modern reader’s perspective we can see, along with Atwood, the creeping approach of the society Brave New World warns us about, and lack of identity and individuality that plagues its inhabitants. The article also looks at Brave New World’s brand of happiness, and asks “what is the price we might pay to achieve it?” referencing the loss of identity in exchange for social stability. Similarly, in Louis Menand’s article on Never Let Me Go, he describes the premise of the book on a basic level as “even when happiness is standing right in front of you, it’s very hard to grasp.” Both articles discuss how the idea of happiness is presented in both books, and Menand compares one book to the other by describing the setting of Never Let Me Go as “brave-new-world Britain,” implying that Brave New World is the logical progression of the society in Never Let Me Go, which is entirely possible with 550 years for the possible technological advancements between them.
Menand comments on the style of Kathy’s narration, calling it “self-conciously stilted and banal.”
The Societal Consequences in Ishiguro’s Novel
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a dystopian novel set in London, focusing on the lives of special humans called donors. These donors are actually human clones, who are raised in private schools until adulthood, when their vital organs can be used for transplants to normal humans with health issues. Not only is Ishiguro’s novel dystopian, it’s also uncanny, offering “the revelation of what is private or hidden: that which should have stayed secret but has been revealed” (Marks 341). The novel can be considered an uncanny one because “bioethical alarm at the prospect of human cloning is clearly linked to a fear of the uncanny, in the sense that the clone constitutes a crisis of the ‘proper’ and of the ‘natural’; a comingling of the familiar and the unfamiliar” (Marks 341). The uncanny nature of the novel is significant because it creates a sense of discomfort for the reader; the emotional and moral implications of this discomfort force the reader out of his comfort zone. In Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro uses the genre of the uncanny to subtly criticize the modern-day class system and general ignorance of suffering. This is done with the use of a clone’s perspective to tell the narrative, the humanization of the clones, and the societal implications of the existence of the clones.
Ishiguro’s use of Kathy’s perspective in Never Let Me Go allows for the readers to sympathize with the clones. The readers are introduced to the frame story with a greeting from older Kathy (Ishiguro 13), which puts the story into reference. Because Kathy is the central voice of the story, Ishiguro inherently grants significance to the clone’s perspective. This “[has] the virtue of presenting the cloned life, however problematically, as an imagined and embedded social and psychological experience” (Marks 333). Because the readers are faced with the reality of clone-living, they are forced to consider the depth of the implications of societal class, and likewise apply the implications to their own lives, in the real world. Further, Ishiguro has Kathy tell the story by “[drawing] upon autobiographical conceits—that is, the memory of education. However… [it] is an autobiography drained of its usual depth and acknowledgment of a fuller life outside of the textual boundaries… fixated instead on what little experience the protagonist holds” (Mcdonald 78). Not only is the story from the perspective of a clone, it is a telling of a clone’s life within a clone society. In fact, the story’s scope is generally limited to the clone culture. Kathy discusses the social and romantic aspects of her life, but spends little time discussing the events of the world outside her private school, Hailsham. Her naiveté of the world contrasts sharply with the harsh nature of her looming future: “You’ll become adults, then before you’re even middle-aged, you’ll start to donate your vital organs. That’s what each of you was created to do” (Ishiguro 364). Even when faced with this reality, her character avoids any discussion of tragedy or equality for most of the novel. This tugs at the sympathy of the reader, who sees the injustice objectively and thus reacts with appropriate anger. Overall, “Kathy simply does not seem to recognize the full horror of what she is telling the reader: ‘…It is in this sense that Kathy H.s voice can appear uncanny, a term that captures the disturbing mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar characteristic of nonhuman automata and doubles, to which Sigmund Freud first attributed the term ‘” (Marks 348). Kathy’s apparent apathy in regards to her tragic future creates discomfort for the reader, who wonders why the main character is breaking a binary and treating injustice with passivity. This breaking of the heroic protagonist archetype by an objectively likeable character allows for the reader to sympathize with the oppressed, but does not directly attack the position of the reader. Essentially, Ishiguro utilizes a theoretical world to make her protagonist universally likeable, no matter the background of the reader, and thus have a reader sympathetic to the plight of Kathy.
Ishiguro further allows the reader to sympathize with the clones by humanizing them as a group. Kathy is kind and sensitive, as seen in her dealings with the bullied boy Tommy (Ishiguro 390-3). So, “The reader is left to wonder why Kathy H. – an otherwise apparently perceptive, sensitive individual, who clearly has a recognizable interior life (a ‘soul’) – can accept her difference and her fate with such equanimity” (Marks 348). Because the clones in the book show traits of normal humans- sensitivity, creativity- their sense of otherness is diminished. The possibility of a soul means the clones are no different than humans; it turns the act of donation into systematic genocide. Kindness is not the only proof of soul: “the pupils from Hailsham cultivate the hope that they might be able to locate their ‘possibles’, in other words the individuals from whom they were originally cloned… We, too, are copiers, and their vain search for ‘possibles’ constitutes an affecting parallel with our own efforts to give narrative coherence to conventional biological kinship relations” (Marks 349). Most of the clones hope for a sense of family; they want to feel like legitimate beings in a world which tells them they are unnatural. Loyalty and sense of family is a central motivator within biological beings. Because the clones are largely isolated from the outside world, this act of seeking relations is not a mimicking of normal humans. It is an inherent component of their sense of self. The society within the novel does not recognize this evidence, though. Within the society, “The children (or captives) are described as “special” and “gifted” by their guardians (or wardens), and their murders are described as “completions,” a jarring reminder of their sole purpose in the eyes of society, and of the ways in which language can normalize atrocities deemed necessary in a given ideology” (Mcdonald 78). The society within the novel uses language as a barrier between themselves and their immoral activity. In the novel, “special” carries the implication that the clones are sub-human, and so they do not have essential human rights. They are different, so they are not equals. The term “completion” is a mechanical interpretation of death; it implies the clones are machines whose lives are not fulfilled or useful unless they are sacrificing it for the good of normal humans. Language, as a component of the culture of the book, is used to manipulate public opinion and discredit the claims of those who are suffering. Because the culture has been shaped to approve this activity, the people of that society are trained not to question the nature of the activity. The fact that the argument that clones are sub-human is not based on any behavioral evidence does not bother the society which benefits from the lie. The society within the book is willing to live in dishonesty as long as it is comfortable.
In order to make the plight of the clones more personal to the reader and consequently criticize modern society, Ishiguro utilizes mirroring of behavior within her story. Within Hailsham exists the Exchange system, in which students trade their crafts and belongings with each other (Ishiguro 390). This “aesthetic economy of exchange at Hailsham is not mirrored in the outside world, where the students’ organs are regarded, precisely as ‘donations’” (Marks 349). In this case, the lack of mirroring gives more significance to the sacrifice of the clones; the clones appear to be the only individuals who are giving in a society which seems to like taking. Simply put, the clones are giving up everything for the improvement of the lives of others; they are not being treated fairly. The balance of sacrifice and reward is put into question: Does the severe immorality of the donation system equal out with the benefits of an otherwise healthy society? This question applies to the real world too: Here and now, in the absence of segregated clones or a system of obligatory organ removal masquerading as voluntary “donation,” it is almost equally certain that the futures the vast majority of children dream of will not be realized. The organ-donation gulag, tucked away from public view and yet not kept secret, has its obvious real-world counterpart in what we call class (Robbins 292). The reader must ask themselves of the real world: Does the severe immorality of the class system equal out with the benefits of a wealthy upper class? This mirroring is direct and personal; with the realization of this reflection, the reader is taken from his seat of objectivity and placed in the figurative hot seat.
Ishiguro’s novel forces readers, especially those of wealth or living in the western world, to question their own position in life, and their sources of contentment. Ishiguro, in a way, puts the reader through a journey of emotional maturity as they learn to sympathize with a powerless and oppressed minority. Contemporary readers need to read the perspective of the clones and see the mirroring of the clones with the humans, as well as the society in the novel with real life society; they need to be completely immersed in the story in order to fully sympathize with the clones and make the connection between the clones as an oppressed minority and real-life oppressed minorities. The combination of the breaking of the binary, the humanization of the clones, and the uncanny nature of the clones creates discomfort for the reader, forcing them to critically consider their own biases. Specifically, that perhaps Ishiguro’s depiction of passive clones is not an attack at the oppressed who do not fight, but a poignant appeal to the oppressors to consider the effects of their actions. Additionally, Ishiguro argues that distancing the mind from unpleasant oppression with tainted language and false argument does not make the systematic oppression any less tragic.
Finally, instead of turning the tables on the reader by making the story of oppression a personal one, Ishiguro turns the figurative scales, forcing the reader to question the value of his own happiness in the balance of sacrifice and gain. Ultimately, it is the uncanny nature of the novel which grants it appeal and melancholy nature- “The world we are presented with is disturbingly similar to our own, and crucially, the practice of harvesting has become a largely unspoken but widely recognized fact of life, drawing parallels with the everyday human injustices witnessed in contemporary culture” (Mcdonald 76). Never Let Me Go is a call to action, with the unhopeful underlying understanding that it is the oppressors who are most in need of changing, yet it is the oppressors who will keep perpetuating a cycle of oppression as long as they are reaping the benefits.
Hailsham, Its Symbolism and Importance to Kath’s Character
Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go allows for glimpses into some hidden dimension of a dystopian reality through the eyes of the protagonists life; Kathy H. The anecdotal, narrative form of the novel permits Ishiguro to present the protagonists memories and recollections of a lost time at her ‘boarding school’, Hailsham. As each memory from her childhood is relentlessly transcribed, an ever-emerging seed of doubt and trauma emerges amid the pleasantly habitual images. For Kathy, Hailsham was more than a home and school that she grew up in, but through Ishiguro’s complex choice of language, structure and form, it became everything and virtually the only thing, that her character could believe and entrust.
The informality and casualness of Kathy’s tone and character is what makes the plot climax so very understated. The conscious ignorance and innocence of all the children at Hailsham, particularly Kathy, is one of the major representations of what Hailsham comes to represent for her. The enigmatic surface of the novel is highlighted at the start of the narration; ‘My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years.’ The deceptive normality portrays confidence and self-awareness in Kathy, which displays a false sense of security. Moreover, the importance of her occupation as a ‘carer’ symbolizes to some extent how Kathy’s identity and existence is very pragmatic, as this is one of the first images she wishes to offer the reader. Kathy’s nonchalance leads the reader to believe her character is at peace with what society has planned for her body and vital organs. Never Let Me Go raises the debatable topic of whether ignorance is either beauty or evil, and to what extent knowledge becomes power. Kathy’s character entrusts everything she knows in Hailsham, and most importantly in the ‘parent-like’ figures of the ‘Guardians’. The theme of innocence is evident within the suggestion that the students lack of a parental figure. Parents provide essential life-skills, which is some explanation as to why the pupils are so readily indoctrinated by the Guardians, such as Miss Emily.
Hailsham represents Kathy’s passiveness, closely related to her readiness to conform to whatever society has planned for her existence. Kathy may describe her world through a very limited perspective, hence her ignorance, although within these perceptions, she exhibits astonishing powers of observation and interpretation. The simplicity in tone of the narrator only adds to ones growing horror and outrage at the characters ‘situation’. Kathy appears undisturbed by how her life has been predetermined, and simply accepts it as ‘what we’re supposed to be doing’. The essence and limits of humanity are constantly addressed in Ishiguro’s novel, and there arises the question of what it is to be human. Choice, love and hope are to some extent the three most important things in life, the children of Hailsham are denied, which is interrelated to the human need of parental support. At the close of the novel, the quotation ‘that’ll be something no one can take away’, suggests that Kathy is in fact human, and possesses undeniably human traits. Her character has simply been oppressed by the dehumanizing system in which they are forced to live.
Never Let Me Go is placed into the genre of dystopian narratives, and by which dehumanized creations meekly accept their fate. Although the character of Miss Emily reminds the reader with the idea that Hailsham was meant to be a ‘humane’ method for rearing the clones; a truly paradoxical and oxymoronic phenomenon. Although at the termination of the novel, Hailsham wishes to prove that as a specie, the clones are ‘as sensitive and intelligent as any ordinary human’.
For the manufactured beings at Hailsham, their ‘home’ is their haven. Despite the fear that the young students are indoctrinated, and are as some would comment ‘kept like cattle awaiting slaughter’, Kathy’s life is Hailsham. Memories before Hailsham are non-existent, and after Hailsham, the boarding school remains the foundations of her existence. Kathy’s life at Hailsham was content, content with her relationship with Ruth; exclaiming she was ‘most definitely in her good books. And that was more or less the way things stayed’. Similarly, Kathy’s relationship with Tommy seemed to ‘work out’ at school, though, once the security of Hailsham had been removed, her relationship with Tommy, would no longer resolve. Hailsham was a sanctuary to its inhabitants, but meanwhile also a mystery. Despite several suggestions of being forced to stay within the confinement of the school walls at Hailsham, nobody tries to escape, even after discovering their future fates. Later in life too, Ishiguro never presents a carer to even consider trying to save a donor. Rumors and denial are the two things that keep the students from attempting ‘escape’; exemplified in one menacing story concerning a girl being prevented from re-entering Hailsham after she ran away. Similarly, Ishiguro presents the children’s fear of leaving their home, with the suggestion of an ‘electric fence’ surrounding the school; ‘It’s just as well the fences at Hailsham aren’t electrified. You get terrible accidents sometimes.’ Alternatively, constant fear could be the reasoning as to why students remain at Hailsham, opposed to them believing it is a sacred; ‘Hail’ sanctuary.
For Kathy, society may be able to take away her vital organs, and eventually her life. However her connection with Hailsham is timeless and eternal; ‘That’ll be something no-one can take away’. Ishiguro empowers Kathy in the final chapter, her tone is defiant meanwhile tolerant of yielding her fate. A sense of ‘completion’ and acceptance is understood. The exclamation of a ‘quieter life’, is the suggestion of silence through her death, though conceivably the silence is a comfort away from the stress and emotion that she felt toward Tommy. Memories of Hailsham is all Kathy needs, whether it be through her audacity or ignorance, she is contently prepared to ‘complete’ her journey. Ishiguro presents Kathy’s character as both a submissive, ill-informed emulation, however at the close of the novel, she personifies the moral question of what it is to be human, and how the importance of challenging society through the art of questioning, can save a life. Kathy is both the victim and the victor at the conclusion of the work of fiction, and her readiness to ‘complete’ provides evidence of this.
Art and One’s Identity Construction
In Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, art is viewed as the extension of one’s soul. Through painting, writing, or any other art form, Hailsham students are able to surpass their identities of clones and express their true selves. The art that students make or find appealing is a reflection of not only their souls, but also their feelings. Most of the world views these students as soulless creatures that are incapable of human emotion; however, the guardians at Hailsham believe that when the students are “reared in humane, cultivated environments, [it is] possible for them to grow up as sensitive […] as any ordinary human being” (261). Thus, the guardians encourage their students to create their own art and be moved by that of others, in order to prove their capacity for experiencing a wide range of human sentiment.
However, what is most important in the novel is not that the world acknowledges the souls of these students, but that the reader does. For the reader to truly comprehend the novel’s motifs of what it means to exist, he or she must view Kathy, the novel’s protagonist, and all other clones as “real” people. Rather than simply telling the reader that the students are regular people, Ishiguro vividly demonstrates the feelings that art elicits from the students.
Kathy, the novel’s protagonist, is extremely moved by the song Never Let Me Go on her Judy Bridgewater cassette tape. Her fondness for the tape extends past the song itself, and into the emotions that the tape provokes and the life experiences it unexpectedly relates to. The tape triggers Kathy to feel a longing for intimacy and a desire for ownership; these human feelings cause the reader to view Kathy and other students as “real” people, ultimately allowing the reader to understand the role of existence within the novel. When listening to or thinking of her Judy Bridgewater tape, Kathy longs for intimacy. Being emotionally moved by music is an archetypal human quality, as humans are perhaps the only creatures on the planet that connect aspirations to music.
Kathy arbitrarily bought her tape at a Sale as a young child at Hailsham. At the time, she did not know how much the tape, and especially track number three, “Never Let Me Go,” would emotionally impact her. The first time Kathy tells the reader about her tape, though unable to outright explain why, she says, “it really got to me” (70). What she did not realize at the time was that the track moved emotions that she unaware of having. At Hailsham the guardians “timed [everything they told the students] very carefully and deliberately so that [they] were always too young to understand properly the latest piece of information [but…they took] it in at some level” (82). As a result, at age eleven, Kathy, though not fully cognizant of her identity as a donor, had a vague clue of what her life would be like. When Kathy listens to track number three, a song supposedly about romance, she holds a pillow tight and dances with it. As she performs this action, she imagines that she is “a woman who’d be told she couldn’t have babies, who really, really wanted them all her life [and then] a miracle [occurs] and she has a baby” (70). Though at this age Kathy had never been forthrightly told that she could not have babies, the song triggers a longing for a relationship between mother and child that she does not yet consciously know she will be denied. Kathy creates her own interpretation of these song lyrics in order to have an outlet for her desire to feel the intimacy of familial bonds. The yearning Kathy feels to procreate is an extremely human emotion; thus, the feelings the tape inspires in Kathy aid the reader in viewing Kathy as a person rather than as a creature.
Additionally, simply owning the tape inspires Kathy with a desire for ownership. Life at Hailsham, or as an eventual donor in general, is full of conformity and the loss of individualism. The students have little choice in how they spend their time or in what they wear. Kathy’s tape is old, and not commonly known of among the students. The tape’s scandalous cover depicts Judy Bridgewater with her “elbows up on the bar [with] a cigarette burning in her hand”; these activities, though taboo restrictions in her own life, provide Kathy with a glimpse into a life of choice (67). Kathy and the other Hailsham students have grown up being, “told and not told” of their ultimate purpose in life (82). Through slowly obtaining information about their future from a young age, they come to find it harder and harder to rebel against or question the emplaced system. The choice to stray away from the life of a donor is unthinkable to Kathy, but still she recognizes that some form of choice is missing. It has been programmed into Kathy’s mind that her body and her life decisions are not her own.
Naturally, Kathy desires the ownership that Judy Bridgewater exhibits in her own life; she sees Judy’s cover and hears Judy’s lyrics and wishes she could control her life in the way that Judy is able to. Kathy is only able to make a few trivial decisions in her life: one of these is her choice to value her tape and have it be the one thing in her life that is truly hers. Similarly, animals do not have much choice in their lives, as they tend to follow their species’ natural paths. The tape provokes Kathy’s aspiration to make her own decisions and be in charge of her life; thus, she ultimately becomes more understandable and sympathetic to the reader. Kathy’s Judy Bridgewater cassette tape proves to the reader that she is as capable of human emotion as the reader himself or herself. After all, the tape elicits desire for standard human hopes such as intimacy and self-ownership.
Once one views Kathy as a regular person, it is easier to apply the novel’s meaning to oneself, rather than simply seeing Kathy as a fictional clone character. The novel’s last two words sum up its entire purpose: “to be” (288). Ishiguro uses Kathy to cause the reader to think about his or her own existence. Through drawing out relatable human desires, Kathy’s cassette tape aids the reader in absorbing Ishiguro’s thoughts on existence by making Kathy more relatable, more human despite her place in a darkly fictional narrative.
The Complicated Road To Freedom in Dystopian Novel
“Tommy sighed, ‘I know,’ he said. ‘Well, I suppose we’ve got time. None of us are in any particular hurry’ ” (178). None of us are in any particular hurry. I remember snapping my book shut in frustration. How can these human beings remain so sedated, sluggish, and annoyingly indifferent in the face of eminent death? In Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Kathy H’s reflections upon the empathic thoughts and experiences of the clones leave no doubt of their humanity, but also reveal the disturbing absence of arguably our most “human” ideal: a lust for freedom. Through self-propagated actions and mindsets, Kathy and by extension the clones in general ensnare themselves within the same dystopian society that marginalizes them.
Although being a proficient carer may seem to soothe and benefit her fellow clones, Kathy’s “caring” actually upholds and strengthens the inequalities of the dystopian society. This becomes clear upon revisiting Kathy’s introduction at the beginning of the novel. Speaking about her donors, Kathy is proud that “hardly any of them have been classified as ‘agitated,’ even before fourth donation” (3). Within the context of the excerpt, “agitation” is the donors’ frustration toward the unfair sacrifice of their life just to prolong another. These feelings are the precious roots of unrest and revolution; every instance of organized resistance against an overbearing state has its origins, in some way or another, within a form of “agitation.” While becoming a carer is mandatory, the extent to which they encourage passivity is based on their own judgement, demonstrated by the state’s lack of interference or control on the caring process. The clones’ work maintains the donation program by maximizing profit for the state with nearly free labor, while utilizing relatability to the donor to ease tension and prevent rebellion. Therefore, examining the role of a carer within the wider context of the clone population, aspiring to be a “good carer” by calming potential revolution is actually extremely harmful, upholding the structure of the dystopia (282).
The suppression of unrest by the process of caring breeds passivity not only in their donors, but also within the carers themselves. Kathy continues by reflecting on her personal attachment to her position: “Okay, maybe I am boasting now. But it means a lot to me, being able to do my work well, especially the bit about my donors staying ‘calm’ ” (3). Besides dampening the flames of resistance with her adamant focus on keeping donors “calm,” Kathy’s commitment to pleasing her higher-ups also has effects, albeit subconsciously, on her own ability to rebel. Kathy is clearly consumed by excelling at her job, evidenced by her admittance to boasting, something we never see the humble, soft-spoken narrator actually do throughout the rest of the novel. Therefore, it would be illogical for Kathy to weaken her commitment to caring with dreams of resistance, given how pivotal the position is to her identity: she introduces herself with “I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years” (3). People typically introduce themselves with information they believe is most important to their identity. Additionally, the pursuit of success as a carer enforces self-compliance by making it nearly impossible to work toward anything else; Kathy constantly exhausts themselves physically and mentally with persistent travel and donor tending: “All this rushing about you do. I’ve been watching you. It’s wearing you out” (282). A fair extrapolation of Kathy’s experience and high regard for her job upon the general clone population reveals an ominous, cyclical trap. Because of their shortsighted perception of success, carers prioritize the momentary comfort attained by subduing resistance in themselves and their donors, upholding the structure of the donation program.
While carers enforce passivity on the individual level, the clones’ obsession and strict adherence to a group identity leads to suppressed resistance of the group as a whole. The importance placed on maintaining a collective identity, a belonging with a group, is clearly on display when Kathy encounters a threat to her association with Hailsham. When informed of the school’s closing, Kathy’s immediate response is asking “But what’ll happen to all the students?” (212). She displays a profound concern for “all the students who’d grown up with me and were now spread across the country, carers and donors, all separated now but still somehow linked by the place we’d come from” (212). Although Hailsham’s termination has no direct impact on any of its former students, Kathy is deeply troubled; asking “what’ll happen” implies that the closing makes it impossible for the students to continue their lives as it is. Kathy speaks as if the bond former students share is so crucial that its removal will cause the clones’ core identity to cease to exist. This is because the value of being joined by “the place we’d come from” is far greater for clones than for non-clones; it fills to fill the void of unknown origins that is crucial to human identity. The lack of parents, family, or ancestral ties creates a permanent aura of ambiguity, forcing the clones to cling onto an alternative source of affection and belonging: the group identity provided by Hailsham. The former students create and maintain this social construct to bridge their insecurities and specify an origin, allowing themselves to attain a sense of normality. Imagining the plight of these clones through this perspective forces us to understand why they held on so tightly to Hailsham; they would never risk losing their makeshift family by attempting to rebel.
Having established the clones’ view of the Hailsham group identity as akin to family, the perpetual fear of being isolated from this social construct is clearly too great to consider opposing the donation program. Immediately after being told of her former school’s closing, Kathy recalls her encounter with a clown carrying a bundle of animal-shaped balloons in North Wales. While observing the collection of balloons, Kathy “kept worrying that one of the strings would come unraveled and a single balloon would sail off into that cloudy sky” (213). Kathy’s repeated anxiety, as she “kept worrying,” represents the deep-rooted fear of being separated from her metaphorical group of balloons, or Hailsham group identity. The single balloon represents an individual who severs his or her connection to Hailsham by opposing the group’s social norms, hence becoming a defector. In the clones’ childhood, “coming unraveled” from the group could be found in taboos such as Marge K asking Mrs. Lucy about smoking, or Tommy’s rejection of creativity. These instances were met with communal punishment and exclusion to restore conformity: “we chose to punish her by hauling her out of bed, holding her face against the window pane and ordering her to look up at the woods” (51). In the same light, the ultimate, most incongruous form of defection is resisting the donation process by rebellion. Considering that resisting in this manner is far more radical than any of the other taboos or unspoken rules produced throughout the novel, we can imagine that the following exile from the collective identity would be permanent and devastating. The fate of a theoretical outcast would be terrifyingly bleak as they “sail off into that cloudy sky”; the lack of clarity or vision in a cloudy sky connotes the troubled, isolated, and dark reality of life without association to Hailsham. Therefore, the clones reject the remote possibility of a lonely freedom, opting to spend the remainder of their short lives under the psychological protection of the group identity they created.
In the scene of Tommy’s outburst after visiting Madame and Miss Emily, the two previously discussed forms of self-repression, the caring process and the importance of group identity, are catalysts that drive Kathy’s decision to “calm” Tommy’s rage (3). “I caught a glimpse of his face in the moonlight, caked in mud and distorted with fury, then I reached for his flailing arms and held on tight. He tried to shake me off, but I kept holding on, until he stopped shouting and I felt the fight go out of him (274).” This excerpt is the only case of outward resistance in the novel, but the true importance of the passage lies in Kathy’s treatment of Tommy, and what her actions symbolize. Kathy describing Tommy’s face as “distorted” reveals her perception of rebellion; acting on his frustration transforms Tommy into a twisted anomaly, at risk of becoming separated from his group identity. This image is furthered by his face being “caked in mud,” symbolizing a dirtying of his identity through the negative change in the appearance of his face. This momentary separation from expected compliance parallels how Tommy’s tantrums as a child isolated him from the group of boys on the soccer field. In this sense, Kathy’s actions can be viewed as an attempt to protect Tommy from losing his precious link to Hailsham. Additionally, given how Kathy prides herself on her ability to keep donors calm, her initial reaction to Tommy’s rage is to address it in the same way she tends to her donors’ “agitation,” subduing his resistance by “holding on” (3). The phrase “felt the fight go out of him” is strongly associated with the suppression of an uprising or insurgence, a task Kathy associates with success through her experience as a carer. Therefore, a clear link exists between Kathy’s job position and her desire to extinguish Tommy’s resistance. By analyzing the scene of Tommy’s outburst through the lens of Kathy’s job as a carer and the importance of group identity, we confirm by this specific instance that the clones, to some extent, keep themselves trapped within the donation program.
Consequently, to understand the clones’ lack of resistance, it is more effective to look inward to social constructs and perspectives formed by the clones themselves, rather than to look outward at the seemingly unguarded path to freedom. Ishiguro’s investigation of this concept has extremely relevant applications in the present, showing one of many ways in which Never Let Me Go should be read as a cautionary tale. To what extent does our desire for a group identity shape our ideas and actions? How often do we blindly pursue “success” in the workplace just to please our higher ups, without understanding the repercussions on a larger scale? These questions reveal how issues that seem tucked away in a faraway, fiction English countryside are actually found in my own life, reflected in my perspective of friends, school, and work. I argue that we become frustrated at the clones’ lack of rebellion because we believe our actions would differ in the situation. However, although none of us forcefully donate our organs, many of the same barriers to freedom that the clones construct are actually ones we form as well. Therefore, the clones’ self-repression, through the work of carers and the adherence to group identity, offers powerful insight upon the degree of freedom we truly possess over our own lives.