Wednesday, November 14, 2012


One of the most disturbing things about "Never Let Me Go" to me is the fact that the three friends never actually try to escape their fate or rebel against the “system” (in the absence of a better word) that created them to be used as human spare parts. Even Kathy and Tommy’s request for a deferral does not really count as a rebellion, because they only try to alter their fate within the boundaries and possibilities of the system; they do not consider other ways to get away when their plan fails. On page 244 Kathy and Tommy think about what they want to do with their extra years together, if they get the deferral:
“What do we do exactly? See what I mean, Kath? Where do we go? We can’t stay here, this is a centre.”
“I don’t know, Tommy. Maybe she’ll tell us to go back to the Cottages. But it’d be better somewhere else. The White Mansion, maybe. Or perhaps they’ve got some other place. Somewhere separate for people like us. We’ll just have to see what she says.”
This passage shows that their plans for the future do not involve living in the “free” or “normal” world (which at least Kathy must be familiar with due to her status as carer, which apparently involves a lot of travelling), but that they again only wait for what the system (in this case Madame) tells them to do.
The only (at least halfway plausible) explanation for this passive and fatalistic behavior seems to be the brainwashing at Hailsham and consequently the clones’ deep conviction that their donating is “what [they]’re supposed to be doing […]”(227). I wonder, though, what Ishiguro is trying to tell us with this depiction of his protagonists. Is it meant to be a criticism that we often do as we are told without questioning the system that makes the rules? Or does he rather want to show us that there is no running away from death and that we all have to face our own mortality? Whatever it may be that the author wants to convey, this part of the story leaves the reader in a very melancholic mood. 

PS: I chose the German adjective "schicksalsergeben" as title for the post, because it seems to describe the protagonists best. The Englisch translation would be "fatalistic" or better "being resigned to one's fate". 


  1. Something that has been bothering me as I read this book is whether or not the protagonists are really even people. I think that rather than Ishiguro criticizing doing as we are told without questioning the system, or even showing us that there is no running away from death, the clones might be set on dying because it really is what they were created for. Maybe it "feels right" because that really is their purpose (227).

  2. I think it is an indication the system in the novel works very well. Raised in a certain way they can't even think of rebellion. I don't think it's about mortality, I think it is more social in nature.

    History has shown that human beings can "get uses to" and accept just about anything, so the argument "that is just how life is" is hardly ever valid. I think the text invites us to question aspect of society that we hardly ever think about... even if only to understand why those things are. I also think that there are aspect of our society that we take for granted that have darkness at the center.

  3. What is interesting here is that these protagonists are at the periphery (or just outside) of our definition of human, so how does that relate this fatalism or passivity to us? They are in some way artificial and designed, they don't have parents, but this seems not to change very much about them, actually. They still feel emotion and become fixated on images, music, and lovers. Their acceptance, as children, of any condition or contradiction of the world as natural mirrors our own impossible consent. This all serves to humanize the protagonists.

    But I wonder if their fatalism is related to what Dr. Stuber called the affectless or flat quality of the narration, and if this is related to the deliberate or artificial design of the protagonists.

  4. The idea of design and purpose are two ideas that I think are intertwined throughout the novel and serve as an overarching theme that relates to why the characters don't rebel. Essentially everything in the novel is artificial in at least some sense. The school mirrors the art which mirrors the students in that it was all designed with an explicit purpose. The art created by all of the students is done not for shear pleasure, but with a purpose in mind, even if that purpose is not revealed to the characters. So too is Hailsham designed to prove something beyond the healthy rearing of children. The sense of fatalism is then derived from the fact that the characters have been taught, trained even, to follow the unknown design. By being given a wonderful childhood, the characters have nothing to be resentful of, so why question the purpose that seems to drive the process in which they are participating.

    I wonder if, in the world of the novel, if other clones who were not raised in such idyllic environments actually would rebel?


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