What if we found a cure for cancer? Diabetes? Even death? What would we willing to sacrifice for these medical miracles? Modern medicine has recently come made advances in the area of human cloning. Being able to successfully clone humans would solve many of our current medical problems and increase our life expectancy exponentially. Medically clones would be a solution to almost every problem we currently face. Morally however, the use of clones as medical supplies poses it’s own difficulties.
Kazou Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go explores the ethical boundaries of creating an entire race of humans who’s only purpose it to supply organs.
Beneath its straightforward plot line Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go is an understated dystopia. The simplicity of the plot allows these themes to shine through with concise subtlety. The society in this novel is dystopian. This is illustrated by the deception of the students into thinking they live in a paradise because of isolation.
Never Let Me Go is narrated in the first person by Kathy H, a thirty one year old who is in her last year as a carer. The story is told through her memories at Hailsham, the cottages, and then her career as a carer.
Hailsham is a school for clone children who are brought up in order to donate vital organs in their adulthood. Hailsham is a special school; the children live in an idyllic building in the English countryside where they live as normal children would.
Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.
Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is (Identity). Hailsham was a paradise of a school, and as we learn later in the novel, a rarity for clone children. The children are raised by guardians and treated as normal children. All their needs are attended to and the children are unknowingly spoiled. Hailsham is a perfect atmosphere for children to be raised, and the students believe their lives are perfect.
Their knowledge of the outside world is minimal. Guardians only teach them enough to survive the two-three years they must fend for themselves living in the Cottages. The students are told horror stories of the world outside Hailsham. The students are constantly praised and told they are special. They do not know they are being raised to give away their organs. The students feel that their lives are perfect based on the knowledge they have of the outside. As Kathy says to her friends while at Hailsham “Children out there don’t have enough to eat or even beds to sleep in, so hush Ruth we’re the lucky ones”(Ishiguro 27).
The students are brought up with an almost spoiled entitlement. The truth was kept from the children by extreme means. Those who visited Hailsham from the outside world were not allowed to speak about the outside world. One guardian Miss Lucy attempted to tell the students the reality of their futures. Most were too blinded by the lessons they had been taught as children to understand their fate. However, as Ms. Emily spoke more bluntly they began to understand and ear their futures. She was fired shortly after this and they did not speak of her revelations again (Ishiguro 42). This is done to hide the horrible reality of their futures.
The isolation and deceptiveness made Hailsham seem utopian to the students. The only time the students have a glimpse of the real world is the time they spent at the cottages. The cottages were abandoned farms and vacation homes where the students live as they transition into adulthood. When the students first arrive at the cottages they are afraid and feel vulnerable. The cottages are their first experience of freedom and the outside world. The cottages are not comfortable and luxurious the way Hailsham was, but they provide students with a life in which they can learn and experiment while still being abundantly provided for.
The students understand this to be the way the world works and have a false perception of responsibility and person. After their first year at the cottage, the students begin to explore the world outside their village. They discover the malice and hatred ‘normals’ have for them. They are estranged and ostracized when they go out into society. The students then spend the majority of their time within the confines of the farm. The reaction of the first ‘normals’ deters the students from further attempts to explore outside the village.
As the students are gradually maturing the reality of the approaching donations becomes much more evident. However, even when close friends left to begin their donations goodbyes were short affairs and the friends was rarely spoken about after their departure. Donations were not a taboo subject among the students nevertheless, because of the mystery surrounding them any discussion left them with more questions than answers (proof). The students perpetuate the pretense that was begun by the guardians at Hailsham, “a little because of habit, but mostly out of fear” (proof).
As a result of the students being raised identically, they often strived to create unique identities for themselves. The students understand that they differ from ‘normals’ and do not consider themselves persons in the same way. They know they are made as copies of other people and most likely “trash”(proof). This does not deter the students from attempting to fashion identities through expression. Growing up, Kathy felt that how one was “regarded at Hailsham, how much you were liked and respected, had to do with how good you were at creating” (Ishiguro 16).
The students were pressures and encouraged to create, in order to reveal their inner selves. Although the students do not see themselves as persons it is not until they encounter ‘normals’ that they see themselves as less than human. When Kathy and her friends confront madam, she reacts in horror and concretes the fact that something about their existence is unacceptable. Kathy explains her feelings by saying “the first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it’s a cold moment” (Ishiguro 36).
From then on, Kathy grows up with a distinct awareness that her existence terrifies the general population. This knowledge concerns but does not occupy the students, though they understand that they are not seen as human they feel as they are not far from it. Because of their isolation the students are not unnerved by the notion of not being human, as their peers are also inhuman. Part of their identity is the almost humans that the students perceive themselves as. These identities are adjacent to humanity, so much so that the students assume they possess souls.
This is illustrated when Miss Emily reveals to Kathy that the gallery was assembled in order to prove the students had souls at all. Kathy is shocked and she responds, “Why did you have to prove a thing like that, Miss Emily? Did someone think we didn’t have souls? ”(Ishiguro 260). Because the students were scientifically engineered for the use of others society could not afford to assume the students had souls. People did not want to think about the effects the donations had on the donor, so they chose to belief it did not matter because they were not people.
Miss Emily tells Kathy “Hailsham was the last place to consider the ethics of donation. We used your art to show what you were capable of. To show that donor children are all but human. But we were providing an answer to a question no one was asking. If you ask people to return to darkness, the days of lung cancer, breast cancer, motor neuron disease, they’ll simply say no. ” (Ishiguro 272). In final analysis, the themes of deception, isolation, and dehumanization prove that Never Let Me Go is a dystopian novel.
The understatement of the dystopia illustrates the deceptiveness that is used to manipulate the students. The deferral is a false hope that symbolizes the hope of the students that they have humanity. The students remain naive even when they begin donations in this way they remain children. This metaphor is continued throughout the book revealing the souls of the students. The question of morality is deeply concerning, because of the medical advances in this day and age. We must now ask ourselves how far we can go before we compromise our ethics.
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