Escape from the Truth

In Never Let Me Go, the characters undergo a constant struggle in the process of identifying who they really are. From the behavior and thoughts of the characters, the readers can sense a note of ambivalence: they would like to stay ignorant of their fates, but external forces are always trying to push them to find out more – Madame’s fear, Ruth’s possible, rumor about deferral – these events gradually reveal what is ahead of them and lead them closer and closer to the truth.

According to Kathy’s story, the characters enjoy being ignorant of their future. Kathy shows deep nostalgia to the short interval of leaving Hailsham and becoming donors and carers: “[I]t was possible to forget for whole stretches of time who we really were…we somehow managed to live in this cosy state of suspension in which we could ponder our lives without the usual boundaries” (142). Being ignorant of their future is “a cosy state”: procrastinating on knowing her fate relieves her anxiety and her doubts. It is a great time that everyone can freely picture the countless possibilities in their future. One can be a firefighter or an office receptionist, and all of the imagination will be long gone once the characters become carers and donors.

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Therefore, it is surprisingly common for the characters to stay silent and pretend they are ignorant when they are close to find out what their future is. When they first notice that veterans are leaving to take “courses” that they clearly know “have to do with becoming carers”, the “big hush” and the “understanding” that not to refer to the trips show the reluctance of the characters to confront the purpose of their creation (132). According to Kathy, it is “a territory [they] didn’t want to enter” (139). Also, before the five start on the journey to find Ruth’s possible, Ruth flinches when she is so close to find out her model. She acts as if the car crisis is seriously jeopardizing the trip – “it looked like the trip might have to be called off” – but actually this is Ruth trying to evade it (146). People all have the experience of putting off chores with ridiculous excuses such as not having the favorite cleaning cloth, and similarly, Ruth is using the car crisis to put off what she finds unpleasant and in this case, somewhat intimidating: finding out her model, which indicates her pre-determined identity and future.

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Some may argue that the pretended ignorance is nothing more than burying their heads in the sand, but psychologically speaking, it is the characters’ coping mechanism. Staying ignorance, even pretending to be ignorant means an extra day of carefree, happy time for them. They have an obscure concept of what is ahead of them, and they subconsciously find it unpleasant. Therefore, they don’t ask questions and they do what they can to hide from the truth: if the ugly fact has to be confronted one day, why not just wait until the day come? The characters behaviors and thoughts speak to the reader that, for them, ignorance is bliss.

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One thought on “Escape from the Truth

  1. I liked how you pointed out that the characters are “pretending to be ignorant” as if it is a coping mechanism. They are content with only a vague idea of what their future holds for them because ignorance allows them to avoid the harsh truth that their lives were predetermined, thus revealing how ignorance is bliss. However, it is interesting that their ignorance is only “pretend.” Although they try to ignore the truth, they are nevertheless conscious of it. They are unable to resist their desire for the truth because their ability to learn new knowledge gives them hope. Their attempt at escaping ignorance is also a coping mechanism. For example, Ruth tries to find her possible because she hopes that she was modeled after someone successful. Tommy tries to uncover the purpose of the Gallery in hopes that deferrals exist. While they rationally try to remain ignorant, the characters also subconsciously yearn to escape ignorance.

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