Cultural Perspectives on Familial Belonging
The Dignity of Dead Tissue: Education, Oppression, and Family in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go (2006; whenever quoted, abbreviated as NG) is a dystopian novel with a disturbing premise. In an alternative United Kingdom of the late 1990s, human clones are raised in secluded orphanages and boarding schools to be the “carers” of “donors” and eventually to be “donors” themselves. As the novel unfolds, the meaning of these terms gradually becomes clear: all clones are destined to be harvested for vital organs on behalf of the needs of the “normal” society which is sheltered from them. The novel’s narrator, Kathy H., is a clone who looks back on her thirty-one-year-long life shortly before she herself will become a donor. As she tells her story, she has spent more than eleven years as a carer. Having outlived most of the clones she grew up with, she is now content to follow her “siblings” into death (NG 4). The plot itself tells the retrospect story of how Kathy finds out what she is, and how the political climate of “normal society” makes her death inevitable.
Unlike other narratives with a similar setting – such as the 2005 film The Island, for example – Kathy’s reaction to her own identity as a clone and her function to be harvested for organs does not result in flight or violent resistance. Instead, Kathy makes peace with her life and death as it is. Critics have frequently highlighted this aspect as the most challenging dimension of the novel. The narrator’s acceptance of...
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