The Challenges of Proletariats in ‘never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel ‘Never Let Me Go’ is set in a dystopian world in which human clones are created so that they can donate their organs as young adults. Ishiguro proposes the possible threats posed by the upper class in relation to capitalism and how the working class are left exploited which is emphasised through the characterisation of the characters and the construction of the hierarchy. The novel ‘Never Let Me Go’ remains an entirely Marxist strike on the inventions of the bourgeoisie and the effect this then has on the proletariat. Ishiguro also uses symbolism to show how the clones will be proletariats despite their attempts at absorbing the values of Hailsham and being accepted within the mainstream society. Ishiguro holds a strong view on how the lower class are typically expected to not only obey but also sacrifice lives for the ruling elite which he portrays in his writing. He portrays this society in his book and uses it to challenge society against this view. Additionally, his writing actively explores topics such as individuality and oppression which are expressed in chapters evoking extreme feelings of sympathy and powerlessness in the reader. Using a Marxist critical perspective, we can discuss Ishiguro’s representation of the working class, examining the conflict of power between the social classes and the way economy is organised, including the mistreatment and exploitation of the powerless.
The most obvious way in which ‘Never Let Me Go’ represents an indispensable Marxist meaning is through Ishiguro’s emphasis on the segregation of society, which is still evident in today’s society. The reason Hailsham students are cloned is to provide organs for the rich people when they are in need, so it is clear the protagonist and the other clones are living their lives for the intelligentsia. This is an example of exploitation within a socially unjust society and immediately places the Hailsham students at the lowest status within society through the lack of control over their own lives and physical aspects. Ishiguro strengthens the students powerlessness to the reader through the character of Miss Lucy when she states, “You’re not like the actors you watch on your videos, you’re not even like me. You were brought into this world for a purpose, and your futures, all of them, have been decided.” This suggests that the students of Hailsham are restricted to having their own lives and are merely just bodies with functioning organs which also will be snatched away from them. Ishiguro symbolises finality through the word “decided”, as this reinforces how captured the individual’s life is and the futility to rebel as everything has already been set in stone. This quote is very powerful as is shows the manipulation of a proletariat’s personality so that they destroy their own individuality. Also, the human rights are taken away from the proletariats for the rich to remain luxurious in their living, which is physically seizing away a child’s agency over their own bodies. The idea that the students are being brought up to die in most means is snatching their innocence and childhood away from them concluding to the children living life as what Aries (1960) would call ‘mini adults’. This fits a sociological idea of a child’s childhood being taken away from them as Hailsham compels the students to fit into the norms and values they need to serve the interests of capitalism; which is a Marxist convention.
Ishiguro presents an artificial division between the upper and lower classes through the relationship between the students of Hailsham and those from whom they have been cloned to show the different means of social control. These clones are created in order to serve the interests of the bourgeoisie. This luxury of having donators available immediately is only provided and available to the highest in society; reminiscent of how the bourgeoisie exploit the powerless, as the students are literally giving up their bodies in service to the upper class. Kathy’s character highlights her separation from mainstream society when she mentions “waiting for the moment when you realise that you really are different to them”. Kathy sees a connection to the person she has been cloned from and questions whether their lives are any different, however, it is obvious to the reader that there is a clear segregation between them. The authority of Hailsham reinforces this idea for Kathy and the students through stating that the purpose of their lives is to serve the upper class. Kathy ‘waiting’ for the moment to realise this shows how she has no right to know the truth and how she has been isolated completely from the upper class as all her questions remain unanswered. This shows that there is a clear division between social classes and how the agents of social control exert their power onto the powerless. Ishiguro also presents the division clearly through Kathy saying ‘who dread the idea of your hand brushing against their’ which demoralises the students as being human beings and heightens how they are figures of social needs instead of lives. By everyone else other than students ‘dreading’ even touching them reinforces how the division is severe between Hailsham and the world outside and how this has created prejudice against them. This highlights how Ishiguro is presenting the students as being objectified just for the needs of the upper class which Ishiguro is challenging.
Ishiguro uses the characterisation of Miss Lucy to impose the norms and values of Hailsham onto the purity of the students. For instance, Miss Lucy mentions “If you’re to live decent lives, you must know who you are and what lies ahead of you, every one of you.” Arguably, Miss Lucy is the most heroic character in the novel, suggesting that it is better to face the reality which is ‘death’ and accepting what their life demands from them. For instance, their motive for living is for providing and assisting with their functioning organs and merely living for their death which is impending. Conversely, Miss Lucy could be seen as a very manipulative character in the novel, suggesting she is also working for the bourgeoisie or could be tied down by what they call ‘law’, but according to legislation it’s going against human rights as the artificial laws are being enforced onto the students to make capitalism and exploitation succeed. Theoretically, Miss Lucy is indoctrinating the students to keep them oblivious and separate from the reality. An example of the students being indoctrinated can be shown when Kathy mentions ‘I’ve tried to leave Hailsham behind… But then there came a point when I just stopped resisting’, this reinforces how successfully all the hierarchy and authority figures have instilled their ideology into the students and how the students can’t leave their past behind as its constantly surrounding them. Obviously, Ishiguro is encouraging Miss Lucy’s character to absorb the regime of Hailsham and work to serve the needs of a capitalist society which only the bourgeoisie benefit from. For instance, this is demonstrated when she conveys, “You were lucky pawns. There was a certain climate and now it’s gone. You have to accept that sometimes that’s how things happen in this world.” The word ‘lucky’ connotes that the students are blessed to be living at Hailsham, but the word ‘pawns’ implies the students are victims and something being consumed by society as material goods. This could also link back to how the futures of the students have already been decided for them and the incapability and futility to rebel. So, every character’s failure to rebel overtly is dependent on them fully accepting and absorbing in Miss Lucy’s words, which reflects immediately on social political writing as it conveys manipulation of innocent minds and mentally indoctrinating them of ‘reality’ and the means of ‘accepting’ it.
Ishiguro expresses through the character of Kathy the oppression the students face daily which enforces numerous feelings of confusion and agitation as to why their lives are so restricted and why their individuality is taken away from themselves. An example of this is when Kathy expresses, “Why did we do all of that work in the first place?… If we’re just going to give donations anyway, then die, why all those lessons? Why all those books and discussions?”. Kathy is questioning the means of restricting individuality and through this Ishiguro reinforces her unawareness of how the agents of social control are successfully indoctrinating the students. This self-esteem is being broken within the characters as they feel like they are of no use to themselves at all due to them not owning anything, including their own bodies. Another example of this self-deteriorating image can be seen through Ruth when she says, “We all know it. We’re modelled from trash…We all know it, so why don’t we say it?”. By using the word ‘trash’, Ishiguro implies that the students have no value and are seen as disposable in society. This strengthens how the students are composed to believe they have no utility which emphasises how their minds are completely dissolved in the regime of ‘Hailsham’. Also, this emphasises the severity the Hailsham norms and values have gone to, to mentally change an individual’s mind. Ruth is extremely blunt here, mirroring what they’ve been taught and brought up for. This confirms that the institution imposes their views negatively onto the Hailsham students, leaving them to suffer outwardly and inwardly causing loss of individuality and powerlessness to acknowledging what’s reality and what’s not.
To conclude, Ishiguro reinforces how Kathy as a proletariat must live the consequences from the ideology that has been instilled in her, of how she is born just to fulfill the needs of donating her organs. This is clearly a Marxist invention as there is a clear level of segregation between classes and power within our society such as government creating laws to benefit the intelligentsia. Ishiguro present this convention successfully in the establishment of Hailsham as it shows us the depth of segregation of social classes and the exploitation of the proletariat. This construction of the institution mirrors any ‘school’ in today’s society as it has a major impact on an individual’s life and prepares them to be exploited in the future by the workforce of capitalism. Also, through the use of character’s Ishiguro emphasises the proletariats position of powerlessness in society and how the intelligentsia are always successful in exploiting them. Ishiguro through ‘Never Let Me Go’ highlights the extreme of capitalism through the establishment of Hailsham and heightens the level of discrimination of the economy in general through misuse of power by the bourgeoisie.
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