Never Let Me Go
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.
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.
Death and Human Dilemmas: Creating Sympathy for the Characters in Romanek’s ‘never Let Me Go’
Mark Romanek explores the difficult choices that people make when faced with death in his film Never Let Me Go (2010). He explores the raw human emotions of jealousy and forgiveness through the characterisation of Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Kathy (Carey Mulligan). When faced with death, it is common to act out towards the people you care about, with this concept developed through the character of Ruth. However, people also want to forgive and be forgiven. These conflicting choices and subsequent actions that the characters’ face is crucial to the film. The dystopic storyline of cloning humans for their organs is so far removed from the audience’s own experiences, that they feel apathy for the characters. To counter this, the director successfully humanises Kathy and Ruth by placing them in situations that many people have also experienced, allowing the viewers to connect with the film emotionally. In doing so, Romanek positions them to question the ethics behind organ farming, as the characters express very human qualities rather than acting as faceless objects.
Romanek explores the human emotion of jealousy, particularly in the face of death, and how it is difficult to reverse the consequences. This emotion is illustrated by the character of Ruth, reflecting on and how she behaves towards Tommy and Kathy, as she was never wanted to be left alone. Ruth’s insecure and vulnerable qualities are present from the beginning of the film at Hailsham, which defines her actions. The director first introduces the character of Tommy at a time when he is teased by characters in his year level, including Ruth. Kathy is the only person in her year to approach and later befriend Tommy. However, as soon as Ruth sees that Kathy and Tommy are happy together, her jealous state causes her to cast her friendship with Kathy aside. Romanek foreshadows these actions in a scene at Hailsham, where Ruth and Kathy are gossiping in bed about the blooming relationships within their year-group. The scene opens with an over-the-shoulder shot from the perspective of Kathy, with Ruth’s dialogue showing her interest in the love lives of their peers. Ruth’s change in body language and dialogue about how “Tommy’s changed” indicates her new opinion after seeing Kathy’s interest in him.
Furthermore, having a dimmer light on Ruth rather than Kathy depicts her na?ve behaviour and how Ruth will manipulate her friend to get what she wants. Ruth makes the conscious choice to disregard Kathy’s feelings towards Tommy so she can avoid her biggest fear of being alone. As the film progresses, so too does Ruth’s vulnerability and her jealousy towards her peers. Her jealousy reaches its climax while at ‘The Cottages’, which exemplifies their fate of being organ donors. Here, Ruth tries to regain control over the only possible aspect of her life, which is her relationships with others. Romanek highlights this idea in the scene where Kathy is listening to music, and Ruth interrupts with hurtful remarks. The backlighting on Ruth as she enters the room, paired with the eerie non-diegetic music and low-angle full shot, makes her appear sinister and powerful, which puts the audience on edge and unsure of the situation. Ruth’s spiteful but personal dialogue and open body language while belittling Kathy demonstrates her vulnerability momentarily, stating ‘Tommy and Kathy would be a more natural couple’. Romanek chooses to explore this concept to humanise the cold and disconnected character of Ruth, as she expresses the human quality of jealousy. Ruth’s choice of taking out her frustration about her personal problems towards Kathy is a painful one, which potentially jeopardises their friendship. These two scenes position the audience to question whether jealousy has caused difficult and unfortunate actions towards those they love.
The director also explores how humans seek forgiveness and forgive others when death is nearby. The tense relationship between Ruth and Kathy exemplifies the importance of seeking forgiveness and forgiving others, however difficult it may be. When Kathy and Ruth meet after their times at ‘The Cottages’, Ruth has rapidly deteriorated and is close to ‘completion’. She convinces Kathy to take her and Tommy on a trip to the beach, where she confesses her wrongdoings and to make things right. The setting of the scene is on an empty beach, typically an area free from bias. Furthermore, the closed body language of Ruth, along with a mid-shot camera angle of her alone herself demonstrates her vulnerability before trying to make amends. When Ruth is telling Tommy and Kathy about the deferrals, they are shot together using a close-up reverse angle highlights the range of emotions expressed on their faces. By humanising the characters, the audience is positioned to not only reflect on their individual grudges but to question their mortality, by looking at the ‘quality vs quantity of life’ altercation.
When Kathy returns to Ruth’s room, she accepts her apology and tells her that she is applying for the deferral. It is unclear whether Kathy has genuinely forgiven Ruth or if she is only doing so because she is close to ‘completion’. Romanek uses this difficult dilemma to position the audience to re-evaluate whether they should have forgiven others in the face of death and whether they did for the right reasons. The monochromatic colour scheme, the absence of non-diegetic sound and long pauses between Kathy and Ruth’s dialogue is used to create a sombre mood to reflect the bittersweet topic at hand. After this scene, a close-up shot shows Ruth on an operating table with the only diegetic sound being a heart monitor flat-lining. Romanek illustrates how people do not ‘complete’ until they have finally forgiven themselves.
Romanek illustrates how individuals who face death have difficult choices to make, and how that has a significant impact on others. He humanises the characters by exploring the emotions of jealousy and forgiveness, causing the viewers to create emotional attachments. By removing the “us vs. them” mentality, it questions the ethics behind involuntary organ donations. The director uses various film techniques to emphasise that no matter the circumstances, we are all human in the end and therefore are worthy of fundamental human rights. The director openly encourages the audience of ‘Never Let Me Go’ to question the ethics of cloning humans, as the characters are continuously viewed as real people rather than merely replacement organs.
The Theme Of Knowing Your Purpose In Never Let Me Go By Kazuo Ishiguro
It is known to man that when one knows what when you can find your purpose find a sense of identity to yourself. In “Never Let Me Go” the story focuses on Kathy H., who portrays as herself as a guardian, talking about looking after organ donors. She has been a carer for almost twelve years when she begins stating about her past life, and she often references about her time spent at Hailsham, a British boarding school. All the students at the school are clones who are being prepared for donations of their organs. The teachers are known as carers and the children are watched carefully. In the story the children are primarily educated about the importance of producing art and of being healthy. Kathy creates a bond between two other characters, Ruth and Tommy. Eventually, Kathy develops feelings for Tommy, as well as her best friend Ruth, which creates a conflict between the two. In the story “Never Let Me Go’’ Kazuo Ishiguro uses conflict to portray the theme that knowing your purpose in life can lead you to a state of identity.
Kathy and Ruth the two main characters have been experiencing a conflict trying to find a meaning to their life because sometimes they feel like they just do not belong. A way they believe they could figure out who they were, was by finding out who their possible was which is the person that they are cloned after. In the story Kathy states, “Nevertheless, we all of us, to varying degrees, believed that when you saw the person you were copied from, you’d get some insight into who you were deep down, and maybe too, you’d see something of what your life held in store.” Kathy finds out this information from her friend Chrissie and Rodney who are Veterans. They tell Kathy and Ruth these things because they know all they have knowledge about the things that are going on at hailsham. Later on in the story Kathy finds out that her possible is made after a famous person because they are the ones who would like to get the donations later on in life. Kathy wanting to know more about who she is as a person feels determined to find this person and she states, “It’s just that sometimes, every now and again, I get these really strong feelings when I want to have sex. That’s why I started thinking, well, it has to come from somewhere. It must be to do with the way I am.’ I stopped, but when Tommy didn’t say anything, I went on: ‘So I thought if I find her picture, in one of those magazines, it’ll at least explain it. I wouldn’t want to go and find her or anything. It would just, you know, kind of explain why I am the way I am”. The reason Kathy wants an explanation on the way she is because recently she has been having these sexual urges that she can control to the point where she is horny all the time. She asks her best friend Ruth is what is going on with her normal and Ruth lets her know that No, it’s not normal, it’s actually wrong. This makes Kathy feel the need to find her possible and to get explanations on what is going on. Finding her possible will help her solve the conflict and explain to her self who she is giving herself some reason and an identity to herself.
Furthermore, throughout the story Kathy and Ruth both struggle to find their purpose in life because everyone makes the clones feel like your nothing but a clone and nothing else. When Chrissie and Rodney talk about clones they let Kathy and Ruth know that there is more to just being a clone and that you are your own person with your own identity. Chrissie states, “There were some who thought it stupid to be concerned about possible at all. Our models were an irrelevance, a technical necessity for bringing us into the world, nothing more than that. It was up to each of us to make of our lives what we could.” What this shows in the story is that there is definitely a mix of dependence and free will in the clones’ very existence. On one part, they rely on their model as someone they need in life or worship, they feel that their life is based around someone else. But on the part, once they’ve been made, the clones have to fend for themselves. Chances are, they’ll never see their model again; Which gives people a chance to be themselves. Identity is a huge factor in the book because that is all they are trying to find about themselves. Later on in the story Kathy begins to start focusing more on her own self and not possible. She begins to understand that she might actually just be different than anyone else and that’s alright. She begins to use her path as a metaphor talking about it as a road and how hers is a different one than everyone else. Kathy states, “I realised, of course, that other people used these roads; but that night, it seemed to me these dark byways of the country exist just for the likes of us, while the big glittering motorways with their huge signs and super cafés were for everyone else”. In this section Kathy creates a comparison between clones like her and regular humans. It’s as if she’s envisioned an alternate path of life between the two kinds of people. This conforms that Kathy throughout the story has somewhat found her identity and views herself different from others.
The theme of knowing your purpose in life helps you locate your identity is present in The TV show “Lost” as it is conveyed through the character John Locke. For example when John Locke was struggling to find his purpose on the island because he knew that something great was destined for him. He had found the hatch but not open it yet and he is banging on it saying, “I have done everything you have asked of me, why am I like this, what else can I do?”. This relates to Never Let Me Go because John and Kathy both are having a hard time finding their purpose but eventually John finds his with the hatch just as Kathy found hers. Another outside source that proves finding the meaning of life is key is represented in the movie The Island where Lincoln and Jordan are looking for answers about themselves when they suddenly find out that they are clones made from people in the real world. They are looking for answers to find out their identity when they find one of their inventors Merrick who tells them, “There was a cloning defect in Lincoln’s default person.” (The reason he tells Jordan this because it explains what is the reason for Lincoln’s thoughts and the way he has been acting, resulting in him and every clone to start to question their existence. This relates to Never Let Me Go because they are both trying to find answers to the way they are giving them some answers to their identity.
Overall, the purpose of life is used to help you find your identity in conflict situations. In all three sources “Never Let Me Go” ,“Lost”, and “The Island” they all show this trait of finding a sense of belonging once they have found their true identity.
The Theme Of A Dystopian Society In Never Let Me Go By Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go, written by Kazuo Ishiguro in 2005, is about the perspective of a female named Kathy who grows up knowing how she will die and her friends. They attend a boarding school called Hailsham that raises them from birth and are informed of their certain death by donating their organs. The book revolves around love, betrayal, and mortality between the three friends who edge closer to their depressing fate of certain death. This book used the theme of dystopia, where society is having a time of great anguish and injustice, to express how the characters and students in Hailsham are treated and have a dark future ahead of them. Ishiguro used the theme of dystopia in a society by adding elements to the story such as the fear of the outside world, they are in a dehumanized state of society, and they are under constant surveillance.
In Never Let Me Go, the author used theme of dystopia in a society by demonstrating the fear of the outside world. One example was Kathy having a fear of the woods outside of her home named Hailsham. She explains how a boy ran off into the woods and his body was found two days later. Another was a ghost that haunted the woods who use to be a student in Hailsham. Kathy brought up a crucial detail after she announced her fear of the woods when she said the older students were told this happened by the guardians, the teachers of Hailsham. She said,”the older students would tell us that was exactly what the guardians told them when they were younger”. This shows how the students perspective and actions were controlled by the school falsifying information to implement fear. The fear of the outside world and its effect on the students reinforces that Ishiguro exemplified a dystopian society.
Another example of how Ishiguro described a dystopian society was the dehumanized state society was in. In the beginning of the story, the characters backgrounds were not provided, such as who their parents were. They were raised in a boarding school and remained there for their whole childhood life. In Never Let Me Go, later, Kathy and Tommy find out they are clones in the end. The purpose of the clones is to donate their organs, which kills them at the end. Ruth, Tommy, and Kathy discuss how fearful the donations are because they could die from their fourth donation or even their second donation. They talked about how a friend of theirs named Chrissie who “completed (died) during her second donation”. They start to argue about how unfair it is that they have no say or anyway out of their foretold certain death. Nevertheless, the book does not explain what happened that caused the country of Britain, where the story takes place in, to raise clones only to kill and gather their organs. The clones were put into Hailsham because of the treatment clones received by actual humans and to prove that they are humane and should be treated as such. To prove they are human, the guardians have them make art to show their emotion and human qualities. Never Let Me Go clarifies how the society was living in a dehumanized state with the creation of clones and the breeding and killing of them for organs.
Ishiguro also interprets a dystopian society in Never Let Me Go, by demonstrating how the students were under constant surveillance and feared being heard by someone. Throughout the book, the characters would look over their shoulder when talking to someone about an issue or setback. Tommy and Kathy were talking about Miss Kathy, a guardian at Hailsham who later reveals to them their past, and how she was when he talked to her. Tommy, however, became nervous when talking and, based off of kathy’s words”, seemed worried about being overheard, and glanced over his shoulder”. People were watching and listening, and this incident in the book gave a clue that there was something odd and fake in the story. Another example was when Kathy and her two friends were in the Cottages, college for clones, and were talking to other students they knew. Chrissie talked about how she could not talk to Kathy and Ruth about having a three year break. Chrissie said however that “everyone is listening” and could not give this information to them. Ishiguro vocalized very well how the story takes place in a dystopian society by the fear of being watched and surveillanced in the book.
Many that read a book hope for a heroic action or happy ending, to happen when a group of people are controlled by a ruler or external power that is unjust or unfair. An example is Hunger Games written by Suzzane Collins where a female character leads a rebellion against a cruel government. However, Ishiguro exemplified how in today’s world, many do not fight for change even if there is a dark future. An article brings out how different this story is compared to others such as Hunger Games by saying about the characters, “there are no dreams of escape into the woods…there is only a terrible compliance, and a slave’s desperate capacity for self-delusion”. This quote considers how the characters in Never Let Me Go are in their state of mind. With their thinking process, it allows the theme of a dystopian society to easily be recognized throughout the book by having any sense of rebellion removed from the picture. Ishiguro articulates how the characters are living in a dystopian society by their own mindset and view of reality.
In conclusion, Kazou Ishiguro exemplified the theme of a dystopian society by showing how much fear the characters had of the outside world such as the woods around their home, them living in a dehumanized society where they will all die a certain death by donating their organs, and their fear of being constantly watched and surveillanced about secrets and information that can help them. Ishiguro also expressed why he did not have the characters become rebellious and how much control the people in power had over the clones by deleting any sense of rebellion. Ishiguro wrote a fine piece of work and used the theme of a society in dystopia throughout the book.
The Marxist Ideology In Kazuo Ishuguro’s Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishuguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ is a unique, dystopian novel which could be interpreted as a Marxist fable. According to Marxist ideology, the working class has always been exploited to support the Capitalist oppressors, and here the idea is carried through to its logical conclusion. Ishugro’s message, which has been clearly conveyed by the clones – all drawn from the lower orders of society – are used to support the bourgeoisie. The working classes have given their bodies and their health to the cause of industrialization, or to war, to protect the interests of the ruling elite. In this fable, they literally give their bodies and their lives piece by piece (through the ironically named “donations”.) Through the perspective of Kathy, we are exposed to the everyday life of a clone, showing the struggles faced in the post industrialised society.
Ishuguro’s description of the oppressed students at Hailsham reveals the lack of awareness of the life they have been brought into. Their inability to question their place in the hierarchy even after leaving Hailsham represents their position as the lower class, further emphasising the absence of information and freedom given to them. The bourgeoisie, as the ruling force, have control over the students and their fate as seen through Miss Lucy as she gives a direct statement; ‘Your lives are set out for you…You’ll become adults, then…you’ll start to donate your vital organs. That’s what each of you was created to do’, this implies that they have constantly been fed all this information about their future before they really understood their purpose in life. Throughout this novel, the characters are shown to be dehumanised into the robotised, industrialised society as they are constantly monitored with electronic bracelets, making them feel trapped and imprisoned demonstrating the lack of awareness of the outside world. In addition, the nurses in charge of keeping their organs healthy for use in the future strengthens this sense of dehumanisation, by treating them like robots rather than human beings, as though they are machines whose only purpose is donating organs, this is shown in. Moreover, through the perspective of Kathy (a clone) we see the lack of identity and understanding of who the person she is, as she questions whether her identity is connected to the person she was modeled from. This message is made clear by Ishuguro as he portrays the strength of the ruling class, to the point where their identity is hidden or unknown, therefore there is no longer an enemy to fight against.
The reasons against forming a rebellion are endless, so why didn’t they? Throughout their years at Hailsham they were raised into believing that donating their organs was their only purpose so they had learnt to accept it rather than questioning their fate. As Ishuguro stated himself in an interview; ‘their circumstances seem normal to them therefore they feel a sense of duty’, rather than filling their lives with sorrow. Carers are shown to reinforce the fate of the people as they assume that it’s the only thing that could happen to them so instead of questioning their fate, through their mothering, they reinforce the suppression and this gives them a greater sense of responsibility. As shown at the start of the novel, Kathy takes pride in her job; ‘It means a lot to me, being able to do my work well, especially that bit about my donors staying ‘calm’’, this sense of pride enables them to have something to look forward to in their short lives. On the other hand, in this Marxist fable, students at Hailsham are so confined that they are punished if they question the situation they’ve been forced in or their destiny. Although this could create suspicion for the clones, they completely avoid any situation in which their fate is questioned for example, when Marge K. asks Miss Lucy about smoking (an activity strictly prohibited at Hailsham) and whose prohibition is therefore part of the students’ internalised ideology, Kathy and her friends take action: ‘For days afterwards I remember how we made Marge’s life an utter misery’. Ishuguro demonstrates that these oppressed students are rather afraid of rebelling and similarly in Marxism, the proletariat, struggle in an attempt to make their voices heard. Fears of standing out and being noticed by others could lead to other punishments and the implicit suggestion made by Ishuguro is that the only way we can stop the exploitation of people for war of another class is through abolishing class altogether (ideal of socialism meritocracy) proving that the way to heal this perpetual difficulty is getting rid of stratification.
Hailsham was considered a place where the clones felt safe and innocent. Towards the end of the novel, when the students are told that it had been demolished, their innocence seems to vanish. To the students, Hailsham was a place in which they were nurtured and given a fair education. Throughout their time there they were given books to read, art galleries were created and they were even given the chance to appreciate music. This is shown when it says ‘That was why we collected your art. We selected the best of it and put on special exhibitions. ‘There, look!’ we could say. ‘Look at this art! How dare you claim these children are anything less than fully human?’. Here Miss Emily discusses the importance of art and how it’s a joy of life. By participating in regular activities, the clones feel less like robotic figures and more like typical humans. As a protest against the Marxist ideology, Miss Emily and Madame use art as propaganda for the pro-clone movement. Life at Hailsham was very different in comparison to other government homes, where they were treated more like animals than humans. Miss Emily explains to Kathy the horrible state of the other homes when she says; ‘At this very moment there are students being reared in deplorable conditions you Hailsham students could hardly imagine’, indicating that even though the students of Hailsham are of the lower class, there are still people living harder lives than them, highlighting the immense power of the bourgeoisie over the lower classes. When Kathy mentions a donor she cared for, she explains how ‘desperately he didn’t want to be reminded’ of the place in ‘Dorset’ where he grew up in, instead he wanted to hear about Hailsham. Similarly, even though Hailsham students are presented as more privileged than others, they are still oppressed as they were never allowed to go beyond the grounds making them very restricted in their experience. These suggestions show that they remain victims because of the carers who smother them with attention and love, this confirms their fate as they become aware that they’re modelled from the lowest in society. In addition to this, they refuse to think too deeply about their position in the hierarchy, we see this in chapter 14 when Kathy says to Ruth ‘But I think Tommy’s right’, ‘It’s daft to assume you’ll have the same sort of life as your model. I agree with Tommy. It’s just a bit of fun. We shouldn’t get too serious about it’, this implies that questioning their fate might cause them to go in a state of agitation, or fear which could be avoided.
Never Let Me Go can also be seen as a ‘coming of age’ novel where the nature of human relationships are represented. Before they grow up to know their true purpose in life, they live the lives of regular human beings who are able to freely feel and express the emotions of anger, love and jealousy. Through the characters, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, the romantic tragedy is visible and conflict is constantly present between them since childhood. We are exposed to the relationship between Tommy and Ruth which builds great jealousy in Kathy, just like natural human relationships, the jealousy felt by Kathy represents the struggles of love and life. Tommy is presented as a character who shows extreme anger as a child, where he would occasionally have anger outbursts, implying that he knew about the future ahead of him. Ishiguro also portrays the dangers of scientific experimentation which has no moral boundaries, predicting how the future of society would turn out without considering moral implications. The dangers of the current societal trends towards unbridled scientific experiment and the increasing stratification of society, are what cause the cruel, corrupt world in which the clones have been deceived into.
For the most part, this novel clearly presents the conflict in the lives of the clones, who are restricted from living normal lives, and are robbed of their identity. The materialistic world they have been manufactured in shows the struggles in social and political change. Ishiguro conveys how the clones are immediately raised into Hailsham (the place in which they call home) after they have been created, without the right to choose how to live their life. As they grow older the students of Hailsham are never recognised as ordinary humans, increasing their fear of standing out and being noticed by the public. The bourgeoisie (ruling class), represented by the guardians at Hailsham have full control over the oppressed students, and make sure they are healthy and fit for donating solely for the use of the ruling class. The Marxist ideology covers the state of the clones in this novel, proving that society is insurmountable as the consequences of the proletariat making themselves heard are fraught with danger.