Finding Comfort in Deception

Throughout the novel, Hailsham students (especially Ruth) repeatedly suppress and alter the truth in order to maintain their level of comfort. The students’ primary discomfort originates from the fact that they are different from those in the outside world, as they are genetically copied from a possible and are raised for the sole purpose of donations. To compensate, they turn to methods of escapism, such as reading books and lewd magazines. Each method evolves into its own form of deception, as students claim to read books they have not read and pretend that they have not seen these magazines that they have indeed read. Of the books, Kathy reflects that, “…there was an unspoken agreement to allow for a mysterious dimension where we went off and did all this reading” (123).  The others perpetuate the conformity of this, allowing it to continue by through ignoring what they know are outright lies.

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Through reading books, scanning lewd magazines, and creating false fantasies, the students attempt to escape their harsh reality, if only for a moment.

Additionally, Ruth attempts to create a new narrative for Hailsham students which Kathy corroborates through her silence. By placing Hailsham students at a more elite level, Ruth creates an imaginary universe in which Hailsham students are able to rebel against their status and achieve the role they truly want. Kathy states that, “Ruth did say a few things every now and then to encourage the idea that, sure enough, in some mysterious way,a separate set of rules applied to us Hailsham students…she seemed confident I wound’t give her away. And of course, I didn’t” (145). In doing so, although the veterans begin with a higher social status than the Hailsham newcomers, Ruth allows for Hailsham students to have a higher status simply due to their educational background. She speaks of an amazing office job, implying that as a Hailsham student she has a higher chance of reaching this goal than those who attended different schools. Ruth fabricates the narrative to both enhance her status as a Hailsham student and create a fantasy that all are able to enjoy and convince themselves that it could occur. Through this, though the students most likely know that this cannot occur, they are all able to indulge in the fantasy for a brief period of time.

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.

Seeking Truth to Find Motivation

Seeking truth is difficult. We know this through our own lives when we flee from confrontation and clarification. In fleeing from facing truth, we flee from discomfort or “awkward” situations. For the characters of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, this discomfort is rooted in the possibility that as organ donors, they are constantly judged on how they are like “inside…reveal[ing their] soul[s]” based on their artwork (Ishiguro 175). We see such tendency to avoid confronting truth through Kath’s response to Tommy’s theory that the artworks are designed to keep a track record of their capability to love. In particular, her efforts to divert from reaching the cold truth are accentuated when she realizes the extremely low chance of Tommy’s deferral, according to the theory. Prior to this realization, Kath still asks for further detail about the theory, asking questions like “so what are you getting at?” and nodding in agreement (175-176). However, once it strikes her that because Tommy hasn’t been chosen for his artwork, ever, she convinces him and herself about the flaws of the theory. She says, “maybe the art’s just one out of all kinds of different ways” (177). Even when she ponders the fact that the Madame watching her dancing to the song Never Let Me Go further confirms Tommy’s theory, she oversimplifies this by saying “I was just thinking over what you said, that’s all” (177). Important to note is that inherent to avoiding truth is lingering ambiguity.

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Often we deny, reject and suppress truth because it discomforts us. Tommy does so in response to Miss Lucy’s urge to accept the importance of art and Kath does so in response to Tommy’s theory of why the Gallery is pivotal to their survival. This rejection of truth prevents progression to motivation to alter the consequences.(https://ifunny.co/tags/rejecting/1424795240)

Through Tommy’s effort to discover the purpose behind the artworks, he is motivated to start creating his own artwork (187). In other words, by confronting the truth that his theory leads to his very low chance of deferral, he finds motivation to try to survive by creating whatever artwork he can. This is ironic because previously he had avoided creating artwork to socially survive; he had found comfort in denying the pressure to produce art, and possible reasons to do so. By creating a marked shift in Tommy’s efforts and products, the novel points to the fact that a confrontation to truth and reality is necessary to define our own goals in life. Prior to the formulation of his theory about the Gallery, Tommy avoids thinking about artwork, apparent through his apathetic responses to Miss Lucy’s warning. While Miss Lucy constantly pushes him to accept that artwork “is important”, he repeats, “It’ll be alright, Miss” (108-109). This very act demonstrates his flee from truth and discomfort from regret in not having done art his whole life, and the possibly threatening consequences. In this scene, ambiguity as to why the artwork may be important and what function the Gallery serves is highly ambiguous. Further, Tommy does not have goals in life than simply walking the path paved for them as organ donors. However, when Tommy comes up with the purpose and importance of art, he produces ingenious artwork himself. He fights to survive, “draw[ing] with obsessive precision” (187). In such ways, the novel highlights the difference between passively accepting a given future, marked by ambiguity and flee from discovering truth, and actively hoping for a different future, achieved only after truth is (somewhat, through active theorizing) revealed. In sum, Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go points at the necessity of clearing ambiguity and seeking truth even when it leads to discomfort because it is only after understanding true consequences that we find motivation to take control of our own lives– to do whatever we can to work future to our favor.

Works Cited

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

Ignorance Maintained By Conformity

In Never Let Me Go, the contrast between Ruth’s behavior and Tommy and Kathy’s behavior at the Cottages reveals that conformity perpetuates ignorance, preventing people from exploring provocative ideas that can allow them to improve their lives.

At the Cottages, Ruth tries to conform to the behaviors established by the veterans in order to seem mature and wise. For example, the veteran couples use special gestures when interacting with each other; Kathy discovers that “when [she] arrived, it was what was going on and Ruth was soon doing it to Tommy” (121). Despite the fact that the gestures were artificial and copied from TV shows, Ruth still mimics the behavior because she wants to fit in with the veteran couples. Viewing the veterans as mature role models, she does not question their behavior and is unable to realize the meaninglessness of her actions.

Is what you see the truth? (storify.com)

In contrast, Kathy is observant and questions the veterans’ behaviors. For example, Kathy realizes that the gestures are copied from the TV and confronts Ruth about mimicking Chrissie and Rodney’s gestures, saying, “It’s not what people really do out there, in normal life” (124). Kathy realizes that rather than appearing wise and mature, Ruth is behaving in meaningless, silly ways by conforming to the veteran’s artificially contrived behaviors. While life at the Cottages is meant to expose them to “normal life,” Ruth’s attempts at conformity prevent her from obtaining a realistic perspective into how “normal” humans live, causing her to remain ignorant about her role as a clone and how different her life is compared to “normal” couples.

When Chrissie and Rodney bring up the rumor of deferrals for Hailsham students, Ruth again tries to gain their acceptance by lying about having heard of the deferrals at Hailsham. As a result, Chrissie and Rodney become “convinced [Hailsham students] know all about it” even though “no one said anything like that at Hailsham” (174). By conforming to Chrissie and Rodney’s expectations, Ruth prevents Chrissie and Rodney from learning the truth that the deferrals never existed at Hailsham. As a result, the veterans have false expectations and hopes and blindly obsess over the possibility of deferrals without exploring other alternatives.

Conformity leads nowhere (www.psych2go.net)

Tommy, unlike Ruth, directly rejects the rumor, saying “I don’t remember anything like that at Hailsham” (155). He instead reflects back on his experiences at Hailsham, realizing “there were a lot of things that didn’t make sense back then” (174), in order to try to uncover more information about the rumor and about Hailsham. Tommy’s unwillingness to conform allows him to think critically about whether deferrals could actually be possible. By attempting to “make sense” of his past at Hailsham, Tommy is reflective and perceptive, unlike Ruth who is narrow-minded and dismissive. Thus, conformity prevents people from perceiving and reflecting on new ideas that can offer knowledge about their identity and purpose in life.

Ignorance Perpetuates Injustice

For the students in Hailsham, they believe that ignorance is bliss. For us as readers, we recognize how this ignorance is in fact not bliss. Through the students’ ignorance of their purpose in life, we see how the students themselves perpetuate the society that uses them solely for organ donation. Though it is easy to accept and conform to the lifestyle designated upon one at birth, the novel suggests that it is always better to seek truth to prevent unethical practices from continuing.

Many of the students from Hailsham did not question the institution of Hailsham, life after Hailsham, their greater meaning of their life—and this might have been because they did not want to know the answers. Thus, most of them chose to give the benefit of the doubt, having “dream futures” they “didn’t regard…as fantasy” (142). This ounce of hope brought happiness and joy to them in the short time they lived before completing which is not necessarily a bad thing. The students took refuge in this “cosy state of suspension” where they discarded everything that the guardians taught them and dreamed about the possibilities of their lives (143). Even when they were told that they would be organ donors, they repressed the knowledge sometimes because they wanted to return to the blissful state of not knowing their futures. For them, ignorance is bliss because the knowledge is a burden.

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” -Confucius

However, by examining how this ignorance allowed the continuation of unethical practices, the readers recognize how the novel suggests that this seeking truth is necessary for equality and righteousness. The ignorance that the students sought contributed to the perpetuation of social injustices. Because the students never wanted to believe they were created solely for organ donation, they never challenged this practice and instead held on to the shred of hope that their lives had greater meaning. Even when Ruth “knew all along it was stupid”, she was still hopeful that she would find her possible for a glimpse at her hypothetical future (166). The students repressed the knowledge that possibles do not indicate anything in their futures because they wanted so hard to believe that they themselves could one day hold an office job, or a supermarket worker. However, though they find solace in this belief, ultimately it is detrimental—their hopes will be destroyed, they will donate then complete, and this unethical system will continue on for future generations. On the contrary, if they acknowledged that they were created for organ donation, perhaps they could find a way to cease this practice of clones. This concept can be applied to our society since there may be practices we are unwilling to accept and believe that they don’t exist or are not harmful, but it is this ignorance exactly that allows these practices to continue.

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Scene from Never Let Me Go (2010) when Ruth discovers her possible is not actually her possible and is filled with disappointment.

To Seek or Ignore the Truth?

Part 1 of Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel Never Let Me Go describes the life of Kathy beginning with her times at Hailsham which in later parts starts to describes her times in the Cottages and ultimately as a carer. As we learn about this society, there are many mysteries which are left unanswered such as the requirement to be creative and the potential of clones. Through these mysteries, Never Let Me Go brings up the idea that people will decide to seek or ignore the truth depending on which is more beneficial for their individual gain.

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To seek or ignore the truth?

For example, throughout the time at Hailsham, all of the students were pressured to be gifted in the arts and creativity. If you were not a creative student, like Tommy, you were looked down upon. However, in one instance, Miss Lucy states that creativity is not truly needed to be successful which brought further questions in the minds of the students at Hailsham which she later denies. This change in answers drives Tommy to continue to seek out the actual truth over the years. All of the mystery surrounding creativity acts as the main motivating factor behind searching for the truth. Tommy’s innate curiosity spurs the movement towards discovery. For example, Tommy later hypothesizes based upon rumors that “things like pictures, poetry, all that kind of stuff […] revealed your soul” (Ishiguro 175). If two people were truly in love, they would be able to defer their donations. However, Tommy becomes disappointed when he finally realizes the actual truth; the large emphasis on the arts was mainly due to trying to make these clones more human than they actually are. By instilling this creativity within the clones, the guardians at Hailsham attempt to make the clones appear more human.  

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The imaginary animals Tommy continues to draw as he strives understand the true purpose of creativity

However, for others, people will decide to ignore the truth in order to better themselves. For example, in regards to the ideas of donations and cloning leading to the advancement of science and the discovery of new cures allowed for the general public to ignore where these organs came from. They solely were interested in the idea that “their own children, their spouses, their parents, their friends, did not die from cancer, motor neuron shadows” (Ishiguro 263). People’s care for the own desires trumps their curiosity. People decide when the truth really is important or if it is better to ignore the truth for their own good. For example, if the general public were to not turn a blind eye to these children who are raised for the sole purpose of organ donations, they may feel bad for the children which would not be beneficial to them. So their solution is to completely ignore reality and live in this world of ignorance instead. 

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Ignoring the truth of the source of organ donations

As a whole, Never Let Me Go highlights the idea that humans are selfishly driven. They will decide to search or ignore the truth depending on which is better for the individual situation.

 

Art as the Test for Being Human

In Never Let Me Go, students at Hailsham are taught to utilize their creativity to create their best work. If the work (a drawing, poetry, or anything similar) is deemed exceptional, then a woman named Madame takes the work to an unknown location for an unknown reason to the students. In the first part of the novel, Miss Lucy initially soothes Tommy by telling him that he does not need to be creative, but she later rescinds this statement. Tommy, consequently, lags significantly behind his peers at Hailsham and at the Cottages in terms of how many works he has created and how many of his works have been taken to the Gallery.

Interestingly enough, Tommy is the one who gives the reader a hint about the art’s true purpose when he explains his theory to Kathy at Norfolk: “Suppose two people come up and say they’re in love. She can find the art they’ve done over years and years. She can see if they go” (176). In Tommy’s theory, we see the synthesis of two nebulous aspects about Hailsham producing a cogent hypothesis. The first aspect deals with why Hailsham students are pressured to create art; the second concerns the rumor that Hailsham students are special because they can delay their fate of becoming donors by having a serious relationship with another Hailsham student. Tommy’s theory suggests that art is used as evidence to determine whether or not two Hailsham students are truly in love or whether they are simply trying to avoid their fates.

Tommy’s theory is the main argument about the purpose of art found in Never Let Me Go in part two, and it points to some interesting ideas about human value. Even though art can supposedly show whether two people are meant to be together, the art still has to be judged. Tommy suggests that “[Madame] could decide for herself what’s a good match and what’s just a stupid crush” (176). Importantly, it is not the art that objectively makes the decision, it is Madame’s subjectivity that ultimately leads to a conclusion. This suggests that an outsider can judge the relationship between two people and seem to have a more accurate idea about the reality than the partners do themselves. Moreover, the students’ art is created in their childhood; judging two people’s adult life based on their childhood efforts emphasizes the idea that the children that are meant to be donors are static individuals. That is, because their futures have been decided, the students cannot change and are not really people who grow and adapt to their surroundings.

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Are Hailsham students actually static?

If donors aren’t seen as totally human, then why is there the option for Hailsham students to delay their donation? One can infer that any individual student does not constitute a person but that the combination of two Hailsham students does lead to humanity. This matching of two students has nothing to do with birth or population because the donors biologically cannot have children. Thus, the option to delay donation if there is love implies that to be human means to be something more than just an individual. Being human consists of relating to another human being. This focus on ties rather than individuals is present throughout the novel because Hailsham students are encouraged to stick together and retain their ties to Hailsham. Kathy is adamant about keeping her old friends close and repeatedly tries to prevent Ruth from changing too much.

In short, art is used as evidence to show that two Hailsham students truly love each other which shows that they are indeed humans. However, this understanding of art is solely based off of Tommy’s theory, but Tommy’s theory is certainly the most believable explanation given in the book. If true, the theory suggests that the students at Hailsham are static individuals who only have value if they are partnered with another Hailsham student.

 

Ignorance: Wasted Time and Unnecessary Conflicts

In Never Let Me Go, there are many unspoken topics and secrets. The knowledge of the kids at Hailsham and the Cottages is very limited, which encourages them to make their own theories and explanations. Therefore, ignorance is not bliss in Hailsham. The kids’ ignorance leads to a lot of wasted time and uncertainty. There is no consistency in the society of Never Let Me Go because there are constant holes in the kids’ knowledge about many topics.

Some of the kids in Hailsham and the Cottages believe in the idea of having a possible. Possibles are defined as “the people who might have been the models for you and your friends” (139). They believe that finding their possible will give them an insight into what their future could look like. In the second part of the reading, Ruth, Tommy, Kathy, Chrissie, and Rodney take a trip to Norfolk with a goal of finding Ruth’s possible that Rodney claimed that he saw. However, the whole idea of finding your possible and why you would try to find your possible is unclear to the five of them. In frustration, Ruth says, “If you want to look for possibles, if you want to do it properly, then you look in the gutter. You look in rubbish bins. Look down in the toilet, that’s where you’ll find where we all came from” (166). Not fully understanding the idea of a possible creates frustration in Ruth, leading her to make her own conclusions out of anger. Ruth is applying her conclusion that she made out of anger to all Hailsham kids. She states that all of them originated from trash. Ruth’s ignorance about their origins leads to unnecessary anger and an awkward atmosphere in the car ride. Also, the five of them spent a lot of the day in Norfolk finding and following Ruth’s possible. Similar to the situation with Ruth and possibles, Tommy also makes his own theory about what art is used as evidence for (174-175). Because the kids do not know why Madame takes their art and puts it into her gallery, Tommy puts pieces together and creates his own theory. He assumes that Madame takes their art and puts it into her gallery so that she has evidence for whether or not two people are truly in love. If their art matches, then it means the two are truly lovers.

There are so many things that are unclear in Hailsham. In the novel, ignorance creates uncertainty, which leads to inconsistency. The topics that are not fully explained in Hailsham are still somewhat explained (like what art is used for), which creates many holes in the Hailsham kids’ knowledge. Because of this, there is a constant state of caution throughout the kids. The holes in their knowledge force them to always be careful about what they talk about since the topics that have holes in them are usually forbidden topics. The ignorance in Hailsham just leads to wasted time thinking about what could be. A lot of the kids’ time is used trying to put pieces together and creating explanations for unexplained topics. Also, ignorance leads to conflict because sometimes a theory of one person might not be accepted by another. For example, Tommy came up with a theory about their art being used as evidence for whether or not two lovers are actually in love (174-178). However, when Tommy tells Ruth about his theory, Ruth completely shuts his idea down, which ends up creating tension in the friendship of Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy (194). In this novel, ignorance does not do anyone any good, for it can lead to wasted time and unnecessary conflicts between good friends.

Sources:

  1. Possible picture: http://sr.photos3.fotosearch.com/bthumb/CSP/CSP992/k12979861.jpg
  2. Art picture: https://d1ee3oaj5b5ueh.cloudfront.net/2013/11/528c9d9c57565.jpeg
  3. Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print.

Culture of Silence: Ignorance is Not Bliss

In Kazuo Ishigaro’s novel, Never Let Me Go, ignorance is not bliss as the failure to explicitly and directly address the identity and lives of the children who grew up in Hailsham creates a dual reality in which the societal members experience discomfort for which they are unable to attribute cause, which suggests for our society that choosing to ignore reality does not eliminate the consequences but prevents adequate diagnosis and treatment.

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The novel is introduced from Kathy’s perspective and from her we learn a lot about the society’s publically undiscussed topics. Unmentioned topics include sex, becoming carers, donations, and now “possibles” (Ishiguro 139). Kathy explains, “Since each of us was copied at some point from a normal person, there must be, for each of us, somewhere out there, a model getting on with his or her life” (Ishiguro 139). We are just now learning that the children from Hailsham are cloned individuals and that their ‘possibles’ are the normal individuals from which the children were cloned. It is remarkable that Kathy seems to mention this just by chance due to the sighting of Ruth’s possible and that this is just accepted without any critical examination by Kathy. She does not make the logical leap that she was cloned to be an organ reservoir for her possible and that this is the reason for her existence. She doesn’t consider the meaningfulness of this information. Kathy simply mentions it in passing and admits that it is not something that is discussed. To simply ignore this reality that she lives in does not make her life blissful in any meaningful way. Yes, perhaps it would be discomforting to acknowledge the cruel reality of life but to fail to acknowledge one’s identity and reality will not change the consequences but rather limit ability to act. Instead of experiencing discomfort from recognition of their reality, the children from Hailsham go on to experience trouble from the consequences of donating their organs and discomfort from creating a culture in which many things are not discussed. Kathy experiences substantial discomfort when Ruth breaks the unspoken rule to not use secrets as weapons in their fights (Ishiguro 129). In this case the culture of silence directly creates discomfort due to failure to discuss leading to unrealistic expectations. Certainly this failure to discuss issues of importance is something that we can find in our personal lives and in our own society in many areas such as race relations, climate change, and economic inequality. Ignorance is certainly not bliss as failure to address these issues carries real consequences.

 

Literature Cited:

Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print.

Blog Prompt for Week 15

As I mentioned in class, your final blog post will be based on the discussion questions you formulated in your groups. Keep in mind that this post should be based on the reading due for next Tuesday (11/29). Also, don’t choose your own question–challenge yourself to answer another group’s question in order to expand your thinking on the novel.

Here are the prompts you guys came up with today:

  • What evidence in the novel points to how the children perpetuate the conformity of Hailsham? How do they prevent information from being revealed? What opportunities do they lose in the process?
  • What is art being used as evidence for?
  • Is ignorance bliss in Hailsham? Are the kids truly ignorant of their true identities? What role does ignorance play in the novel?
  • What does the novel suggest about seeking truth even if it may lead to discomfort?

Happy blogging and, more importantly, happy Thanksgiving!