Only Seeking Comfortable Truths

Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go allows readers to deeply consider the relationship between truth and its accompanying discomforts. The scene in which the children at Hailsham test for Madame’s reaction to seek the truth and are consequently hit with an uncomfortable reality of being viewed in a negative light largely sets a precedent in how the children “seek truth” in the latter half of the novel. Many situations in this book demonstrate the curiosity Kathy and her friends have towards uncovering truth but also illuminate the reservations that present themselves when discomforting possibilities are considered.

Kathy herself demonstrates the difficulty in allowing oneself to find the complete truth in her friendship with Ruth. The two of them find themselves in an unfavorable place in their relationship when they take stabs at each other’s sore spots in a passive aggressive argument. In this scenario, as Ruth asks, “We’re still friends, aren’t we?”, Kathy is prompted to consider how her friendship with Ruth truly works (125). Kathy reflects that “there were two quite separate Ruths,” one that she liked, and one that she disliked (129). However, just as Kathy begins to truly reflect on the difference between these two Ruths and begins to realize that sometimes the Ruth she confides in “merges” with the Ruth that puts on airs, she stops delving deeper into the implications of the merging of the two Ruths. Kathy does not pursue further her reflection because she fears losing her closest confident; thus, she simply returns to the comfort of having the “typical evening sessions,” despite her gradual understanding that doing so has accompanying risks. Kathy also does not even consider Ruth’s point of view that “[she] had been the one to first violate an understanding” after the argument until the present (129). She only comes to see this truth in the present rather than at the time of the event because the barrier of hindsight removes her from the discomfort of considering Ruth’s viewpoint. At the time of the argument, considering Ruth’s point of view would have made Kathy feel that she herself was in the wrong, which would have been a difficult truth to swallow.


Even more evidence of the kids of Hailsham avoiding uncomfortable truths is the situation surrounding the discussion of “possibles”. The children knew about the idea that were made as copies of “normal” people out in the real world, known as their “possibles”. Many of them came up with theories as to what could be learned from their “possibles”, such as the idea that “when you saw the person you were copied from, you’d get some insight into who you were deep down, and maybe too, you’d see something of what your life held in store” (140). This speculation and the other speculations that they discuss all contain rather positive outlooks. However, with all the speculation they had surrounding their “possibles”, one blaring conclusion that they fail to draw is that their “possibles” may be related to their donations. The idea that these “possibles” could be the very people that the children are intended to donate their organs to is absent from their discussion. Any particularly uncomfortable theories are unmentioned, and when “[they] were near terriotory [they] didn’t want to enter, the arguments would fizzle out” (139). If they instead considered such negative theories, the idea of searching for their “possibles” would probably not be such an exciting prospect.

Kathy and her friends often enjoy speculating about truths to satisfy their curiosity surrounding certain mysteries. However, when they seem to sense discomfort that could accompany a possible conclusion, they seem to avoid these possibilities in favor of retaining the comfort of ignorance. Ultimately, the children of Hailsham only seek truth under condition that they maintain what is comfortable for themselves.


3 thoughts on “Only Seeking Comfortable Truths

  1. I concur with your thesis that in the novel it appears Kathy and the other clones play a sort of balancing act between wanting to uncover the truth of their identity and not wanting to confront a difficult reality. This made me consider the same sort of balancing performance that the external world demonstrates given that they are aware that the clones exist yet seem to find any way to avoid confronting the difficult reality of how the clones live. In our society there are many difficult truths that we frame in a certain way or push out of conscience in order to live comfortably. The list is long and includes how we treat/interact with other beings as a society and it is difficult to confront our reality because it may cause us to question basic assumptions about our lives and our society.


  2. Hi Kevin,
    You raise some very intriguing points in your blog post, discussing how, by selectively seeking comfortable truths, the characters of Never Let Me Go neglect the entire truth. In particular, I would like to address your point about how the Hailsham students only focus on the positive aspect of the “possibles”—eager to see what “their lives have in store”. I think that while such selective view on “truth” is widespread behavior in Hailsham, there also is an element of pressure to conform to the unwritten rule that they must not question certain things. In page 139, Kathy introduces us to the concept of the “possibles” saying “Though most of us had first come across the idea of ‘possibles’…we weren’t supposed to discuss it, and so we hadn’t”. It is one thing to be wary of the unwritten rule not to discuss it, and another to choose to submit to it as in “and so we hadn’t”. Thus, in impressing the fact that we often voluntarily conform to unwritten rules not to question, what is the novel revealing about the nature of seeking truth?.. or lack thereof? Does it have to do with our propensity to conform? If so, what has caused Hailsham’s society to mold submission to neglecting truth? Had we been isolated, and influence of society was eliminated, would we question society’s ‘rules’?
    Another important point you bring up is your speculation that the Hailsham students were cloned specifically for their models. This means that genetically the donor and recipient are guaranteed to be exactly the same. This means they look alike, and possibly think alike. Granted such identical nature, what distinguishes humans from clones? Are we ethically bound to those that are basically us? In such way, the distinction between human and clone is even further blurred. Interesting blog post!


  3. I also agree with the idea that people tend to do what is more comfortable for them even if it means to ignore the actual truth. For example, the general public tends to ignore the fact that clones exist. For them, it is better to pretend that the organs magically appear in front of them than to think that they come from these innocent clones. Even in our current society, many people turn a blind eye to acts that may seem to be too uncomfortable to them; they would rather be ignorant of the entire situation.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s