Forced Silence

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go, the children often perpetuate ignorance by pretending that they live separate lives than the fates that have been forced upon them. In a similar vein, unspoken taboo in current, American society can prevent satisfaction in life from being achieved. The suppression of this speech is not strictly forbidden, but it is enforced through social contract, which at times can be stricter than laws that forbid activities.

This social enforcement of maintaining an understanding silence permeates a variety of aspects of life at both Hailsham and at the Cottage. However, when this understanding is broken, either by intent or by ignorance, the tension is visibly presented in the novel. For example, when Kathy directly asks about the life of a veteran after his stay at the Cottage, “there was a silence…there was a bit of shifting” (150). This reveals the awkwardness that prohibits a greater understanding of the situation. Additionally, when Ruth brazenly pretends to have knowledge of a subject that others realize that she does not, “there was an unspoken agreement to allow for a mysterious dimension” (123). This allows for facts to go unchecked and the perpetuation of ignorance and misinformation. Furthermore, Kathy imagines that there are two Ruths, a fake one and a real one. She assumes that “these two Ruths wouldn’t merge,” and thus, Kathy does not ever question Ruth about these two identities that she seems to possess (129).  However, when Kathy does bring up a topic to the ‘fake’ Ruth that was revealed to her by the ‘real’ Ruth, there are social consequences, and their friendship is strained. This strict social regime that prevents information from being revealed may be characteristic of teenage social life; however, for these children, it may be detrimental to the happiness that they gain out of life.

The presence of hidden, underlying truths that nobody approaches because of the fear of social backlash prevents a broader understanding of many pertinent topics in the lives of the children. Talks of life outside of Hailsham and the Cottage is quickly hushed up; people who leave the community are rarely talked about; even the opportunity to escape the donation stage of life for  few years, is mishandled and untruthful. This causes the children to suffer, because they are not able to maximize the utility from their short lives. By presenting this complex, social taboo, Ishiguro implies that the taboos in our current society may also be detrimental to our wellbeing.

Citation: Ishiguro, Kazuo. “Part Two.” Never Let Me Go. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print.


One thought on “Forced Silence

  1. Hi Eshaan,

    I thought the parallel you hinted at between the social environment created by the children of Hailsham and America’s society was quite apt. Although America’s constitution itself specifically guards against the suppression of speech, many controversial topics such as political views are frequently avoided in conversation. Reasons for this avoidance could be due to the fear of arguments developing, possibly resulting in strained relationships between individuals. I cannot help but think of the relationship of this idea and the other topic of truth and discomfort. In a way, discussing controversial matters is what may allow people in America to ultimately gain better insight into an unclear situation; however, due to the possibility of relationships fragmenting between people, people will settle for avoiding potentially dangerous argument, much like how Kathy dealt with her argument with Ruth in order to save her relationship. I feel like this ultimately relates to one of the morals of the novel that we discussed yesterday – that perpetuating a certain ignorance from the complete truth can create a dangerous complacency. Hopefully, America can avoid developing the same complacency that Kathy and Tommy developed and actively discuss ideas to find certain “truths” about problematic issues that plague our country today.


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