Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go explores how society perceives the human body and the eventualities of death. The novel reflects on the life of the main character, Kathy, who attends a special school reserved for clones. Clones, unlike other human beings are taught from their early childhood that they are created specifically for organ donation. Accordingly, the clones learn to accept their fate. All clones are eventually subjected to gruesome surgeries in the process of harvesting organs and die. The mysteries surrounding the authenticity of the human body and its place in the afterlife are intriguing in this novel. The overriding theme in the book Never Let Me Go is that society perceives a normal human body as only resulting from natural sexual relations rather than scientific discoveries.
The society has not embraced the place of science in the creation of life. Although clones are able to perform as many functions as any other human beings, they are routinely discriminated. From the onset, the author slowly introduces the purpose of the clone, rather than going straight to the horrific nature of compulsory organ donation. The author underscores the negative perception of human cloning in the society and the likely shock from the reader once the gruesome details of the cloning and organ harvesting are disclosed.
The author presents the clone characters Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth as individuals who lead an ordinary life like the normal people. However, the fact that these characters are clones is enough for the society to shun them from the mainstream society. Throughout the book, Kathy leads a lonely adult life where she has to drive around the country to check on the welfare of fellow clones. Her loneliness is not any different from that of normal people. However because society perceives clones as being fundamentally different, every effort is made to circumscribe their life-realities. Similarly, clones have resigned to the inevitable death at the hands of the society. “We all know it. We’re modeled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just so long as they aren’t psychos. That’s what we come from” (Ishiguro 166). Society considers clones as substandard to true human people. Consequently, normal people insist on dismantling the clone’s institutions such as Hailsham, a special school for clones, and other facets of the clone’s lives.
The perception of the human body is tied to the existential identity. Society has construed the real human body as a product of natural parents. According to a study conducted by the Center for Genetics and Society, 90% of Americans oppose reproductive cloning (Somerville 47). The denial of existential identity is clearly captured in the novel when normal people begin debating if the clones have a soul. Although clones engage in normal romantic relationships, normal growing up, and normal professional work they are inevitably subject to identity discrimination. Ultimately, their bodies are not acceptable as humanly natural because they are mere creations of science. This notion is captured by the words of Miss Lucy “Your lives are set out for you. You’ll become adults . . . and 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 81). Lucy was warning the clones who had been overheard discussing their future careers. Clones are viewed as mere objects of scientific discovery and not subject to fair treatment as other normal people.
Ishiguro’s novel captures the attitudes of society toward human cloning. Society still holds firm views against reproductive cloning. The gruesome treatment of clones is testament to the belief that clones are only designed for organ donation.
Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go: With GCSE and A Level study guide. Vol. 1. Faber & Faber, 2017.
Somerville, Margaret. Ethical canary: science, society, and the human spirit. McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP, 2004.
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