Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Never Let Me Go

Link to the book cover

If you haven't read, haven't finished, or plan on reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, I suggest you read no further. This is my synopsis of the book for my Long-Distance Book Club. I want to participate in some way and this is the best way I could think of since I'm in Portland and I always work on Sundays.

Firstly, the theme of relationships is very interesting. Kathy and the rest of the Hailsham students have very confining and defining relationships. They are forced, by their surroundings, to make friends with people who they would not normally be friends with. If they had grown up outside of Hailsham Boarding School maybe they would have chosen differently. In this case, Kathy H. is friends with Ruth and, to me, they don't have many similarities.



They don't seem natural in their actions because they have no one to learn from but themselves. Because they have been brought up in this boarding school, it is ingrained in them that they "can and cannot do" things. They can learn about sex and have sex, but they can't have children. They can follow the rules. They have no other references besides their Guardians to teach them how to act, but they do not provide and unbiased form of behavioral guide for them.

I was a bit surprised by the plot twist half way through the book. All I can think about is how these children are born just so they can donate their internal organs. They don't think it's odd. They don't see it as daunting or bad. They just see that it "is". They basically live for the now. When they do discuss their futures, it's almost half-heartedly. The future is there, but it's completely unforseeable or unattainable. At least, that's the impression I got when I read it. It seems like they can say they will become anything they want to, but ultimately they will become carers and then donars.

People outside of Hailshams have different reactions to the students. For instance, Madame the gallery owner, is afraid of them. Or rather disgusted by them. It's a strange reaction when they were all expecting her to be intimidated instead of repulsed. They think she'll be intimidated because they are so much smarter than she is. Another instance is when they go to live in the Cottage, the other veterans kind of see them as having a higher standing because of their status as Hailsham students. These students from other schools are in awe of them and we can only assume because of the school's reputation as being the best.

Living in The Cottage and outside of Hailshams is another interesting experience. Though Kathy H. and the rest of the students do actually leave Hailshams they never actually take it out of their thoughts. They are all still living in this fantasy world with tons of freedom to go and do whatever they want, but with no way to achieve it. They learn their mannerisms and behaviors by how the other students act. At times it seems like they're grasping at straws when they start acting like television characters. They adopt mannerisms and behaviorisms from some piddly television show. Even after they go visit a town many hours away, they all just little kids in a candy store.

When their teachers speak about their futures, it doesn't make any kind of an impression on the student.. They make their futures seem bright and wonderful without them even knowing otherwise. I think that Kathy and the rest of the students don't really know what they're up against until Miss Emily let's them down. They aren't able to make these kinds of connections until later in life because they've never been taught that they have to. While she and the rest of the Hailsham students are all very smart, they just have no idea what lies ahead. Kathy H., I believe has a little more sense than most of the students. If she would only reach up a little farther she'd see the brass ring is right there for the taking.

There are two movies that really made me think of this form of genetic alteration. Gattaca, though not a recent movie, is a great example of how genetic alteration can have negative effects on people. There is ahigher standard help for people because their bodies are "grown" perfectly, so anything less than that is unacceptable. You're confined by your differences and only allowed to do one thing.


The second movie that I think relates to this book is The Island. Just ignore the German and focus on the images. Unless you can understad German, that is.
I know that you're all thinking it's just fabulous eye-candy for the ladies being able to see Ewan McGregor and all, but there's more to it than that. Humans are basically just "grown" into adults. They are adults, but they don't understand their feelings and thoughts because some greater power has made them supress it. These people have the mental capacity of young teenagers becuase they grow up in an environment that encourages that kind of behavior. While they live in captivity, they do live happy lives and it's not until they go outside of it that they realize they are going to die. Granted, this is the ultimate uprising of "perfect humans" it's also a great example of what happens when you think you can control natural elements. Nature always finds a way to break free and be what it's supposed to be.


These movies really make me think about the meat of the whole book. If we could cloen and (or) genetically alter people for the soul purpose of helping sick people, would we? Would it be morally right? Why don't these students ever questions their surroundings? Why don't they ever think they can actually do something other than being carers and donating? How is that possible for them to never step outside of that world? If they knew they could fight back, would they? Is this cruel to treat other humans like this if they grow up in an environment where there is love and support? If they are taught nothing else, then can it really be wrong?

1 comment:

Kristine said...

I found the book chilling in it's dispassionate telling of the story. What was also disturbing was the term "completed" as a stand in for legalized murder of "donors." I haven't read "The Remains of the Day," but I've seen the film, and I extrapolate from there that the author tends to write about isolationism. Well, I could write more, but I'll stop here for now.