Deceptive Bliss

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, ignorance is temporary bliss, a distraction and a delay from confronting the horrifying realities the students face. The purpose of ignorance in the novel for Hailsham is to prevent the social structure from descending into chaos, as the students would have no motivation to even live after coming to terms with their identity.

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Hailsham is responsible for brainwashing its students to be ignorant, thinking it would be the best for them. However, this manufactured ignorance only aggravates their eventual destruction and anguish. Photo from:

By this point of the novel, Miss Lucy has revealed the concept of donations to the students, so the students are not truly ignorant of their true identities. However, they are ignorant in their programmed psychological self-distractions that delay their realization of the harsh truth that they are merely organ donors. However, Hailsham students nonetheless “didn’t think much about [their] lives beyond the Cottages” since they are trained psychologically to forget about their realities as organ donors (116). This is because Hailsham assigned the students to write essays on “a topic that would absorb [them] properly for anything up to two year” (115). The purpose of these essays is to distract the students from fully confronting their pitiful situations as organ donors. This essay assignment “will pop into [Kathy’s] head for no reason. Then [she] quite enjoy[s] sitting there, going through it all again,” thus proving Hailsham’s embedding of this mental distraction into the psychology of its students (116). Even in the setting of the Cottages, the students lived in a “cosy state of suspension in which [they] could ponder [their] lives without the usual boundaries,” showing that bliss can never be obtained without inquiring into one’s condition (143). The characters are dissatisfied without knowledge of their identity, as Ruth “responded only in sulky monosyllables” on her way to Norfolk (148).

Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy all soon face angst in determining their own reasons to keep living this life that has been set out for them. For instance, Kathy flips through magazines in an effort to find her possible, “check[ing] each model’s face before moving on” to the next one (135). She also admits later on that this habit is “just something [she] does” (181). Ruth scours Norfolk for her possible in order to “glimpse [her] future” (140) and gain “some insight into who [she was] deep down” (140). Characters in the novel instinctually search for their identity, since humans are naturally only concern with their selves, and seek for knowledge into their current condition. The teachers at Hailsham are able to realize this and made the decision to shelter the students from many harsh realities. However, they failed to account that ignorance inevitably builds up to “something dark and troubling gathering behind [the] eyes” of students (194). Thus in this case, the proposed remedy has made the sickness worse, as building a false sense of hope has proved disastrous for Hailsham students.


Ignorance created by the Hailsham teachers only leads students onward to eventual heartbreak, defeat, and a fall into utter hopelessness. Photo from: deception-pass-bridge/

Through ignorance, the society of Hailsham is able to allow the students to pursue the unachievable ideal of a human life. However, this form of ignorance only serves to distract the students from facing reality, and help the characters “have a bit of fun pretending” or misconstruing their realities in order to satisfy themselves (166). The students merely live in a bubble with a fake sense of comfort, and it is ultimately themselves who choose to break the bubble with their own curiosity. This paradox of an environment drives a temporary feeling of bliss, of pretending to know certain matters that are clearly false. Thus, ignorance in the novel serves to build up for the eventual heartbreak and downfall of the characters and their relationships.


Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. Vintage Books, 2005. Print.

Photos from:

Island County Historical Society. Guss, Elizabeth. “Deception Pass Bridge – Today and Yesterday.” Whidbey and Camano Islands. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Donnelly, Gregg. “Sexuality and Gender Brainwashing Masquerading as an Anti-bullying Program.” Education News. N.p., 22 Feb. 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

One thought on “Deceptive Bliss

  1. Hi, David. Your point about “ignorance building up to eventual heartbreak” is an interesting one that really gets at one of the novel’s themes. The characters certainly do have this will to find their identity, such as Kath looking in the magazines or Ruth going on the trip to find her possible, but I also think that the bubble in which Hailsham students are kept is a better solution than just letting the students know their futures bluntly. Younger students at Hailsham, for example, would probably not be psychologically developed to handle the idea of their life having no value beyond donation. At the end of the novel, Kath’s and Tommy’s ignorance is eventually broken down when they are told that deferrals do not exist. Even though this does lead to some depression, Kath and Tommy are able to adequately recover from it. Kath, at the end of the novel, does have some sad moments but she finds comfort in being able to retreat to her memories of Hailsham. Therefore, I think that sheltering the kids from their fate is indeed a better choice than telling them bluntly because at least a part of their life is spent being happy.


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