Just Thinking…

There’s a richness of complexity to Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go that one can only speculate about.  The reader was presented specifically with the case of Miss Lucy and her turmoil concerning her duties as a guardian, but one must wonder how did the other guardians feel?  What of the gentle Miss Geraldine whom Ruth and Cathy faithfully “guarded”?  These guardians were only human, and though prohibited from it, many of them undoubtedly came to care for these children that they would send to the slaughter.  Did they feel sick and guilty when someone they knew received an organ, because they know where that organ came from?  They didn’t just know that there was a human behind the organ; they knew the possibility of a face, a voice, a laugh, a child.  Perhaps they simply put their loved ones foremost, but on the same note, that is much easier to do with a clear conscience when ignorant.  Suppose they cared just as much for the person who gave his or her life as the person who received it.  People in this alternate universe had the knowledge of how the donation program worked.  But it’s a matter of living with oneself if one actually cared.

As for the students being genetically submissive, I’d like for someone to call Ruth that to her face.  Yes, I’m aware that Ruth is just a character in a book.

But that’s kind of missing the point isn’t it?

– Wenting Chen


~ by bosiedouglas on February 11, 2008.

3 Responses to “Just Thinking…”

  1. When we see Miss Emily at the close of the book in a wheelchair, I think Ishiguro is presenting with this exact possibility: that she may receive (or may have already received) a transplant, quite possibly from one of her past students.

    I think that the mental barrier the non-clones have erected against people like Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, however, prevents them from ever truly feeling true remorse or guilt about harvesting their organs. Madame shudders at the sight of the students and even after she recounts her distinctly human story of seeing Kathy holding the “old kind world” (272) against her chest, she calls her and Tommy “poor creatures” (272) not just once, but twice, stripping them of their humanness. Even Miss Emily confesses that she would sometimes feel “such revulsion” (269) watching the Hailsham students.

    In this way, I saw their fight for the students somewhat as an extension of the animal rights movement. While those involved in the fight for animal rights argue for better treatment or even a complete cessation of “harvesting” of the animals, I don’t think that they ever believe that the chickens or pigs for which they advocate are our equals. So, when it comes down to it, I don’t think the guardians saw a “human behind the organ” in the strictest sense, but more of a creature that simply deserves a little bit better treatment.

    -Chris Adkins

  2. While I understand completely your reason for finding the actions of the other Guardians unconvincing, consider the attitudes of many employees of similar institutions today. While not exactly similar, nursing homes, blood donation centers, hospices, and abortions are just a few examples of intitutions where one’s everyday life might be compromised by working in such a difficult and death-saturated workplace. However, for these workers, the hardships and difficulties resulting from their employment at these institutions becomes as significant as sweeping a floor, doing paperwork, or any other menial task of any occupation. That is to say, I could definitely imagine that some of the Guardians just got used to the fact that they were caring for children who might one day be forced to give up their lives for someone they knew outside of Hailsham. It is a difficult truth, but no person can escape desensitization. This may be a reasonable hypothesis for the nonchalant attitudes of some of the Guardians in Never Let Me Go.

  3. This is a powerful thread. The idea that Miss Emily might be in a wheel chair because she has received a donation is genuinely shocking, and the reflections on the affective dimension of the guardians are provocative.

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