Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go

“I don’t know how it was where you were, but at Hailsham we had to have some form of medical almost every week.”- Kathy, Page 13

After reading Never Let Me Go, it took me back to our class conversation about the sympathy people share or should feel for robots and clones. The main arguments were that if something isn’t human, then why treat it like one; why should feelings and emotions even be considered? The same argument is made for animals. Some people think that since animals aren’t human, they shouldn’t be treated with the same respect and admiration that people are expected to use for one another. Ishiguro’s text depicts a boarding school where the main characters are clones that are used for their organs. Whenever necessary their organs are removed in a surgery to help the real humans (the non-clones, or “originals”). To reach “completion” means that the clone will die with its purpose in life finally being served in its entirety, that being giving all of its organs to humans who need it. The reality that the clones face is very distasteful. We first see Tommy struggle to be creative, trying to fit the norm, until Miss Lucy assures him that it’s ok to be different and not have creative skills, as long as he tries his best. The rumors that Madame collects the student’s art in order to determine whether they are lying about being in love surface, mainly because another rumor is floating that the students can be exempt from being donors for three years if in fact they are in love.

When Kathy and Tommy find out the true purpose that Hailsham was supposed to serve, it left me with a lot of questions. I understand the prospect of using Hailsham as the experiment in order to improve living conditions for clones and change the way society views them. The methods used made sense: the clones lived in residential rooms, were fed, lived life as normal as a regular human could. But they were still expected to become donors at their adult age. So how is society to think anything of them other than donors? Their purpose has been written in ink and it is inevitable the circumstances they are going to face. Again it has been asked: can we really sympathize for clones or robots that in fact help the human cause? Why should I care about a clone if it is donating its organs to help a person with cancer or another untreatable disease? It’s a tough question because a part of me wants to feel sorry for what happens, both in the novel and the general prospect in our society of experimental methods, technologically and scientifically benefitting humans. If something can speak like a human, act like a human, experience emotions like a human, then isn’t it human? I want to say yes, but then greed/priority comes to mind. If taking a clone’s organ in order to help save my own life or that of a loved one, then why would I hesitate? It wouldn’t make sense for me to sit here and say I wouldn’t. If it makes me selfish, then so be it. But at the same time, it’s hard for me to condone the way the clones were raised in Hailsham, as if they were crop to be raised and picked when ripe and ready.

“If you’re to live decent lives, you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you, every one of you.”- Miss Lucy, Page 81

The aforementioned quote shows how Miss Lucy was the only guardian willing to tell the students what they were in for in an upfront manner. I think what she meant by this is for the clone’s sake, they needed to learn what was to become of them, what was to be expected of them, and how they should mentally prepare themselves. She wants them to come to grips with their purpose and reality and somehow live through it the best possible way. Although she loses her position because of her open relationship with the students, it was evident that she really cared for the student clones and did not agree with taking the organs from them. Again this brings up to the question of ethics. The more I think about it, I probably have to conclude that it is unethical what was done to the clones in the novel. Ruth, Tommy and Kathy experience things that most of us have in our past: relationships, bullying, social groups and living within a community. They almost became too human that the thought of ripping their organs out for those who it was “necessary” for seemed barbaric and disheartening.

“Why did we do all of that work in the first place? Why train us, encourage us, make us produce all of that? If we’re just going to give donations anyway, then die, why all those lessons? Why all those books and discussions?”- Kathy, Page 259

When Kathy says this towards the end of the novel, it really made me think how this could apply to anyone, clone or human. The purpose of ones life is a topic that could go a multitude of directions when discussing. If one day we are all expected to die, then why bother working hard and learning all we can? The obvious answer is to make your life worth living and live it to the fullest extent. Some people have different perspectives on this, and I can’t blame Kathy for coming to this realization for her own being. If she is expected to give away her organs with her fellow people, then why was all this encouragement and training so essential for them? Their fates were decided before the clones were ever created, so leading them on for such a long period of time seems to only put more of a damper on their circumstance.

“I can see … that it might look as though you are simply pawns in a game. It can certainly be looked at like that. But think of it. 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.”- Miss Emily, Page 266

Tommy and Kathy are told they were special clones, standing alone from their group. Miss Emily is right when she says that this was a game of chess, and the clones were just pieces waiting to be eliminated. The weakest piece on a chess board is a pawn and fortunately for them, Tommy and Kathy were able to live longer and come to a completion at a much later stage.

The fates of the characters didn’t give much hope for any future, so I question whether Ishiguro is warning his audience that this is the way the world is heading. It doesn’t seem to affect the humans in a negative way, and the clones are the only victims. Again there is always that hanging prospect that one day technology and science will team up to rebel against the human race. Nature sure as hell won’t be able to help us, as we continuously mistreat and harm our own environment. It isn’t a great thought to think that one day the technology that we cherish most and hold so dear could turn around and finally get its way with us. Ending our semester with this novel made sense because it leaves me, and probably the rest of the class, just as many questions as we started with at the beginning of semester. There was definitely a progression over these past months and my perception of technoculture has drastically been altered. Working with the literature and films throughout this school year helped open up avenues that I never explored and made me think about things in an innovative way. Ishiguro leaves me with questions about ethics, but at the same time creates a society with inhabitants longing for acceptance and reason. I don’t know if I’ll ever have to deal with any of the issues we faced in class but being exposed to them wasn’t the worst thing considering the technological era we find ourselves in.

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