Ownership as a Function of Inheritance

Despite a recurring theme of ownership in recent readings, how is it that we’ve never discussed inheritance in this context?  One’s inheritance (or lack thereof) explicably translates to the quality and degree to which characters in The Behavior of Hawkweeds, Soroche, and Never Let Me Go exhibit ownership of the tangible and intangible aspects of their lives.

Being “born” into a life without parents, siblings, or last name, inheritance was non-existent for the students of Hailsham.  In their younger years, both pride and solace spawned from their collections built form sales and exchanges. A cassette tape, polo shirt, or poem were some of the only things students could indubitably call their own. The attachment to these objects did not seem understood by the students themselves, however, as many students eventually abandoned their collections or nostalgically questioned why a poem scrawled by a nine year old could carry so much significance for so many students at the time.

Antonia, on the other hand, has a very different ownership over the Gregor Mendel stories bestowed to her by Tati. Her inheritance of these tales gave her a deep connection with the history of her grandfather and his idol, which she strongly took to protecting when necessary, and never forgetting the true tale when it was often misquoted by her husband.

Zaga’s story told an even different tale – how one inheritance can be stronger than another. Even after being willed her late husband’s fortune and lifestyle, the widower never felt comfortable with a singular ownership over once-shared entities like the mansion, bank account, and possessions. Instead she slowly reverted back to her original lifestyle as the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants just making ends meet in the city.

While not often brought to light, the manner in which a character comes to inherit something (material or not) strongly affects their ownership of it, influencing their relationship with that something and the other people around them.





~ by lambertpaige on February 16, 2014.

4 Responses to “Ownership as a Function of Inheritance”

  1. I think you bring up a really important component of inheritance that we don’t consider nearly as much in modern times as we did in the past. Historically, you inherited your identity mostly from your parents through characteristics such as race, socioeconomic class, and even occupation. Nowadays, we concentrate almost exclusively on the inheritance of genetics, and forget that even in our significantly more mobile culture, we still inherit relationships, ethnic backgrounds, and even possessions that shape who we are. -Kara

  2. This post reminds me of the irony of the Pueblos teaching John and the others about ownership. They came over from England and learned ownership from the Pueblos. In actual history, the English came to the Americas and taught the natives about property rights and their right to material goods. It would be interesting to find out what characteristics (cultural, geographical, religious, and others) cause a society to develop the idea of ownership.
    -James Patrick Valentine Cross

  3. Kara points out an interesting shift of society’s focus of inheritance. What once was a focus on one’s monetary inheritance is now a focus on genetic inheritance. This shift mirrors the increased social mobility in our society from the past. Once upon a time, your father was a blacksmith, you were a blacksmith, your son would be a blacksmith, and your last name was Smith. Now, inheritance is not how much money, type of social standing, or family reputation a relative passes down, but rather what genetic traits. These are all valid points Kara touched on.

    What worries me is the lack of mobility in one’s genes. There is no escape from the very fibers that are found in each individual cell of a person. Your DNA and you are interwoven in a very “what came first the chicken or the egg” type scenario. You are the way you are because of your DNA and your DNA exists because of who you are. Despite winning back the ability to determine our own fate through the idea of the “self made man” and casting away the idea that monetary inheritance is what defines you, society now finds itself in a similar position of the past. Except, now we can’t escape fate; it lies within our very cells.


  4. With these different conceptions of what it is we own and inherent (and everyone’s point on this thread is spot on, I think) I still think the most valuable position is that of what Paige explicates Never Let Me Go to say—that what we own is our own identity. That this is something independent from our inheritable traits, financial state, social standing. I am not naïve enough to discount the relevance of all these things, but what I believe to be fundamental to who we are, our identity, is who we choose to be. Such a thing is the greatest power we have as human beings. To choose and believe in what we wish to. Meaning is what we make of it, the world around us, and this does not need to have any relation to the past or future. The present, is all that truly exists.

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