Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro Critical Analysis: Dehumanization of Humanity and Racial Metaphor

“Never Let Me Go” is one of the Best contemporary novels from the 21st century which has been awarded multiple honors including Nobel Prize and Kazuo Ishiguro remains one of the most influential novelists of our time. As the story implies, we apparently discover the dehumanization of scientific clone humans for the purpose of harvesting organs. On the other hand, this novel can also be considered as one of the metaphorical masterpieces that bring out the racial discourse which can also be seen in the point of imperialistic conflict. Though the characters are not Asian yet underneath the story, it sites an incisive nonwhite life experience which is depicted brilliantly.

It is never easy to critically analyze a novel as authors hide countless facts and meanings in their intellectual property and as readers, this is the ultimate challenge. To understand the underlying story, critics, researchers and readers need to give a hard look beyond the surface story rather we need to understand the unseen voice of the writer and Never Let Me Go provides an interesting yet highly intellectual story shouting their reality through the story, facts, characterization, settings, etc.  

Brief of the Story

At first glance, the youngsters studying at Hailsham Boarding School are just like any other group of teenagers. They play sports or have art classes where their teachers are dedicated to stimulating their creativity. It is a hermetic world, where the pupils have no other contact with the outside world than Madame, as they call the woman who comes to take away the most interesting works of adolescents, perhaps for an art gallery, or a museum. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were wards in Hailsham and they were also a love triangle. And now Kathy K. allows herself to remember how she and her friends gradually discovered the truth. The reader of this splendid Gothic utopian novel will discover that in Hailsham everything is a performance where young actors do not know that they are the clone of other people who are waiting to take away their organs.

Critical Analysis of Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go is a dystopian book very different from all the other dystopias. It is a rather peculiar dystopia that is melancholic and sad at the same time.

The use of the writer’s masterful perspective and his ability to bring an unusual narrative voice to life is impeccable. In a similar manner, the emotional power of his suggestions and concealments through a sibylline language at the service of a perfectly articulated and defined complex narrative structure is capable of gradually propelling itself from the apparently inconsequential to the moral reflection on the transcendental of life, make this fantasy-scientific novel a rare high-flying bird worthy of deep analysis.

The main reason for the confusion is that, apparently, when we start reading, we are faced with a type of known narrative text. The narrator, Kathy H. remembers her memories of youth. She lived together with other young adolescents in Hailsham, an exclusive educational center closed to them but from which they cannot leave either. However, with the maturation of the plot and the progress of the plot, Hailsham, its residents, and its workers, is taking a more precise form and, with it, also the social and cultural scheme in which it fits, thus increasing stupefaction. Because it is not a penitentiary center, nor is it a high-standing school, but rather a detention center of the many scattered throughout England where the clones are there over time.

The author’s writing style contributes a lot to the feeling of the entire story and it is peculiar and melancholic at the same time just like the rest of the book and the story. It is yet unexpected of a novel that remains silent of many questions raised by readers.

Similarly, Never let Me Go does not remark on the question like, where did these children come from? Was there a before Hailsham? What about the outside world? How can these children not ask themselves questions? Where do the other veterans come from? Probably this happens because all the characters live in ignorance of all the time.

Depiction of Dehumanization of Humanity through Cloning

Science fiction suffered an extraordinary moment of catharsis in 2005 with the publication of Never Let Me Go. With this novel, the foundations were laid for the reissue with a new vigor of the old debate on the borders of the genre that, to this day, continues without anything being clarified yet. Still, the contribution of the Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro will remain indelible on the shelves of the genre for its ability to provoke emotions, stimulate reflections, and show new paths. 

In addition, his masterful use of perspective, his ability to bring an unusual narrative voice to life, the emotional power of his suggestions and concealments through a sibylline language at the service of a perfectly articulated and defined complex narrative structure capable of gradually propelling itself from the apparently inconsequential to the moral reflection on the transcendental of life, make this fantasy-scientific novel a rare high-flying bird worthy of deep analysis.

All in all, the precise handling of the narrative tone and the perfectly chiseled profile of the characters, although at first, it seems to us to give voice to a humanistic demand for the clone, also manages to sow in us the shadow of a doubt. None of the main characters harbors ideas or thoughts of departure or rupture regarding their situation beyond the established official channels. It is true that formulas are sought to extend the homeostasis reached in Hailsham, and value is given to the repeated rumors about the existence of certain requirements or formulas to extend the arrival of the moment when they must choose to be “donors” or “caretakers”. However, from our point of view, the appearance of logical emotions such as fear or terror, aggressiveness, or violence is missed. Everything seems so melancholic.

On the other hand, the insinuation regarding the human being, the society capable of granting such unworthy treatment to a way of life, is revealed to us here as the most powerful narrative technique. The use of the veil allows us to clearly show what we want to remain evident while, at the same time, different possibilities are left open for its development and interpretation. And by making use of not a few veils, arranged in coherent layers in terms of their meaning and interest, they end up imposing a precise rhythm and clear ideas both about who the clones are and their destiny and, ultimately, about humanity capable of such outrage. In fact, almost from the beginning, we perceived fear in the Hailsham custodians, the fleeting or reserved character of those “normal people” who have any dealings with them,

In such a way human panic is felt before the clones that even, in a show of maximum moral degradation. It even uses art as a form of supervision and mental control. The pictures or drawings in the “Gallery”, a sample of mental representations that serve as a formula for exchanging access to resources from abroad, become a way to gauge moods, mental representations of unconscious ideas. Works on philosophy or literature, already in the next stage of maturity, and they work more like a formula of suggestion or control of mood at a time already imminently closer to the final stage of their lives. Artworks in Never Let Me Go like a double-edged razor: capable of channeling the most beautiful emotions as well as serving the most abject control.

Another critical position with humanity is shown in the selection of subjects to carry out the cloning process. At one point in the novel, the characters reflect on why they choose prostitutes or drunkards or other types of declassified people as the basis for the cloning process, blaming themselves for their problems – real or perceived – regarding this origin also considered by them worthless. The reflection that is not in itself but a reification of the human being, a reduction of his condition from subject to object, simplifying his existence to a solely material and / or materialistic dimension, reducing the body to the condition of interface and life to the condition of the accident.

This moral analysis insinuated in the first two parts of the novel, where the plot is structured under the scheme of the bildungsroman with hints of a gothic novel. The seclusion schools are the place not only for the narrator’s intellectual but also for her personal maturity. She acquires a true depth in the third part upon assuming the role of “caretaker” of her childhood friend, Ruth, and also remembers his special friendship relationship with her partner, Tommy. 

The veils drop suddenly to show us the clone in its final stages of life when she makes the decision to be a “donor” or “caretaker”. In any case, she has to remain confined to the walls of that category of dehumanized and declassed, as a form of non-life only valid to be with other forms of non-life, “ghettoized”. 

However, we can feel their pain, that pain devoid of radical and pure emotions, Never Let Me Go, exposes us to these clones and forces us to take sides. Moreover, there is a perfectly calculated ambiguity, and a plot capable of presenting us with the many dilemmas contained in this question end up leading us, little by little, towards the definition of a position. Are these clones a form of life or not? And if they are, could it be considered a form of human life? And regardless of whether it is human or not, would any form of life deserve a destiny like our own? Humanity has written for them? 

Kazuo Ishiguro achieves in this novel a pure sample of science fiction, since, without technical devices of any kind, he crudely exposes a moral dilemma of the imminent future that, not by trying to avoid, will end up being essential to answer. 

Never Let Me Go as an Imperialistic and Racial Metaphor

As the story progresses, the portrayal of the dehumanization of cloned humans is deepened and characters remain in ignorance. The existence and identity of the narrator and her friends turn out to be helplessly pathetic and the hope for an extension of providing a longer life depending on creative capability proves the hypocritical nature of humanity.

Until now we have seen the apparent story which is garnering a theme of imperialistic and racial metaphor. ‘Never Let Me Go’ does not provide any background and racial commentary of the characters which is leading us to identify these characters as nonwhite entities. The writer is often confined within the social condition and this 2005 novel might have focused on the post-9/11, post-colonial time contemplating racial and imperialistic discourse in a metaphorical way. Ishiguro’s novels are not less than an excavation. Though the film adaptation has picked out white and comparatively pale characters yet the novel does not remark on the racial ground. Since there is no mention, we can potentially read these characters as non-white.

There is another potential reasoning behind this racial understanding which is theorized by Ruth saying, “We’re modeled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just so long as they aren’t psychos. That’s what we come from.” Ruth’s theory makes sense if we look closely at the western depiction of the east. In reality, the oriental and ethnic minorities from the east live in poverty comparison to Western and white people which makes this case even more strong figuratively and literally.

Human cloning and treatment of this less than human characters are typically leading us to the inhuman act of organ trafficking. The cloned soulless donors are only recognized as an object that is used for harvesting organs. In the reality, organ trafficking has become a highly profitable business in the eastern non-white countries including China, India, Vietnam, and Thailand. This organ trafficking is one of the forms of modern-day slavery which is real. This novel can be considered as a carrier of modern-day enslavement process hidden in the science fiction story. The latest enslavement process is called commercial surrogacy and indentured servitude, an immigration law that dehumanizes the entire system like the colonial period.

Every literary masterpiece like Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro conveys multiple messages from their comfort zones. This noble winning fiction is beyond the story of cloning and their life and carrying more meaningful facts and stories of the real world. In many ways, the dehumanization of clone people is the contemplation of the real world subjugation of non-white people from east. Overall the story is wonderfully portrayed by all the characters who are living a pathetic life that creates a catharsis. Ishiguro has been able to provoke emotions, stimulate reflections that show us new paths in the literary genre.              

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