Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro--Read-a-Long Wrap-Up and Final Review #cceventsched

This is the end of the Post-2000 "Modern Classic" Read-a-Long of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I hope you enjoyed the book and I look forward to your thoughts on it. I'm going to share my final thoughts in a kind of analysis/book review style.

What does it really mean to be human? Are we human only if we were born to other humans, or can we also be considered to be human if we were created in a laboratory from another's DNA. This book confronts this question in a radical way. What if, in the future, clones were created for the sole purpose of saving the lives of the sick, i.e. via organ donation? In Never Let Me Go, the clones are created and educated as "students" in boarding school type institutions. At Hailsham, where much of the story takes place, a certain emphasis is made on the artistic endeavors of these students. What we later find out is that these students are, in fact, clones and when they leave their schools, they will go out into the world first as "Carers", those who take care of the donor clones as they go through their various donations, and then as donors. Upon donation number four, we learn they complete, or die, which basically means that a life giving organ was taken. However, sometimes the donors complete before donation four due to complications which is not surprising. The importance of Hailsham in all of this is that the way they educated the "students" and emphasized their artistic qualities was their way of proving to the world that these children (and later adults) do indeed have souls and so are human. What we learn through Ishiguro's masterful storytelling is that these people are very human...that they do possess souls. Which makes it all the more tragic.

I do have to admit feeling a bit irritated during much of the book. One of the characters (Ruth) is one of those people who would be absolutely exhausting to be friends with. And Kathy is so frustratingly complacent much of the time. I would have gone off on Ruth much more than Kathy, and even Tommy, ever did. I guess that's what made Kathy such an excellent Carer. Her ability to be understanding of other points of view, however frustrating or irritating. But this is just a little glitch in the reading of the book. Ultimately, I feel that each of the characters...Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy...behaved the way they did as their own special way of coping with what they knew was their inevitability. So very sad.

I must examine the moral implications of the idea behind this book. I used to think that cloning would be a good thing. That it would be good to have clones in case we got sick or our loved ones got sick. But when we are thinking such things, do we really consider that these clones are actually people? Even if they are genetic copies, they are made from the same stuff we are. Who says that you have to be born to be given a soul (if you believe in the human soul, as I do)? How do we know how we really get our souls in the first place?

Books that make me really think are my favorites to read. This doesn't change the fact that this book is very sad and I cried and cried at the end. Definitely well worth the read though.

So, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments or leave me a link to your blog post and I'll stop by. Thanks for reading along with me!


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  5. I really enjoyed this book--I'm glad I read it with you. Eric and I watched the movie when I was done reading, and although they changed a few things to move the story along a little faster, a lot of it was word-for-word from the book. I was pretty impressed (and you know how I typically feel about movie adaptations).

    I think one of the issues with the "soul" discussion is the very idea of the soul. I do think we have something that makes us individuals with different morals, values, ideas, etc, but I think it is some part of our brain that dies with us when we die. I don't necessarily believe in the soul as a separate part of us that lives on after we die or anything like that.

    So I think for us to claim that we are "above" or "better" than other living things because we have souls is part of the issue, maybe. I see no difference between the clones in the book and those who came out of a human womb. No matter how they were brought into the world, they all have the same biological features, including what I see as "souls."

    I'm not a fan of the idea of cloning humans. I'm not sure I'm a fan of the idea of cloning animals. If there were a way to clone organs independently, I would be all for that, I think. Though the idea of cloning is not something that I've ever sat down and thought about as much as I could. I haven't ever thought it the whole way through.

    I was not a fan of Ruth at all, but I had sympathy for her. I think she was just scared and that was how she handled her fear. I think Kathy knew that and decided to rise above the pettiness and do her best to be the better person. I think she felt bad for Ruth and knew that Ruth needed to be treated with kindness no matter how she treated others. It takes a big person to be able to do that, and I had a lot of respect for Kathy. I don't think I would have been able to do it (in fact, I'm sure I wouldn't). I was heartbroken by Kathy and Tommy's story. Sigh.

  6. Thanks for stopping by to discuss, Heather. I do agree with you that they are the same as those born from a human womb. However, I do believe that the soul lives on past our bodies (I believe in reincarnation and that that is the part that is reincarnated) so I very much believe that these 'clones' had souls. I think that's why it was important to those who created Hailsham for that purpose. So many people do believe in the human soul. It was important to them to prove that these clones had souls. However, I don't think they really wanted to know (people out in the world). Wouldn't it be easier if it was believed they were soulless? Not for me, of course, but for those in the book.

    I think I would be okay with the cloning of organs, but, like you, I have never really sat down and really thought about it. Maybe I should.

    I agree about Ruth. Really all of them, but especially Ruth and Tommy. I think they behaved in their own special way as a manifestation of the sadness they felt deep inside of what their future would be (crying again *sob*).

    I went to YouTube after I wrote this because I was curious if there really was a singer like on Kathy's tape. Turns out she was a fictional singer, but they posted a video of the song as created for the film. Very 60ish sounding, but not bad. Then I found the video for the final scene of the film and watched it. Dummy! I cried and cried. So damn sad! I did see the movie several years ago and thought it was well done, but again, too, too sad.

  7. I know *you* believe they had souls, but I'll bet the whole idea of whether or not people even have souls is what caused others not to think that. I'm sure they were considered experiments instead of people. And yes, I also like what Hailsham was doing to try to get others to see them as people, too (even though Madame still called them "creatures").

  8. Oh! And the part that made me SOB while I was watching the movie was when Tommy was screaming in the middle of the field (road, in the movie) after they found out there weren't deferrals.

  9. Ultimately, it would be horrible to know that another living being had to die so I could live. I don't think I could reconcile that...in fact, I know I couldn't.

    It just makes you wonder if any of them ever felt that it was all so pointless. Why bother doing what the boarding schools did with the students when they're only going to die anyway. It really is mind boggling subject matter.

  10. Oh, I know! It was horribly poignant in the movie. Andrew Garfield was great in that role, I think.

  11. I've owned this book for a while now, but haven't read it yet. One day I will, promise.

  12. I'm cross with myself, because i read this book, I even did it by the correct dates, but then Uni started again, so I didn't do my review. Maybe I will get to it one day.

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