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    Materialistic Society in Novel “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro

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    In a society such as the one we live in today, where people rely on technology in such a tremendous way, how long will it be until the development of science and technology becomes inhumane? People rely on material objects so much that we will not be able to identify the line between these material objects and the things we need and are helping society. In Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro the concept of being seen as objects and relying too much on material objects is seen through the galleries, the sales, the obsession through the students’ artwork, and the clones being treated as just organs demonstrates the characters relying on materials in a materialistic society and treating others as inhumane. This needs to be focused on because we live in a world where this could be our future if people continue to become absorbed with materials and themselms.

    Historical critics seem to focus more on the background and the origin of the obsession with materials and the history of the inhumane treatment, two of my critics apply to this school of criticism. Critics such as Giorgio Agamben and Daniel Heller-Roazen focused on the traditions and studies of the Ancient Romans to understand the meaning of sacred and what it meant to the Romans. Karl Shaddox evaluated Ishiguro’s work by focusing on the history of the unfair treatment of the clones and whether or not they deserved human civil rights. Ishiguro wants the readers to question if it is okay or not for clones to be treated as such because they were made scientifically instead of naturally.

    Philosophical critics seem to go around comparing the positive and negative effects of a situation, two of my critics apply to this school of criticism. Critic, Robert Valle Acala focuses on the positive effect of forced organ donation with the negative effect of killing scientifically made humans. Ronald Schliefer focuses on the positive effects of materials by having memories and being able to connect and bond with the materials and the negative effects that they can have by shutting out your emotions and feelings and not being able to connect with other humans and making you incapable of actual interaction. Ishiguro makes readers take in the process of organ donations and the pain and suffering it causes all of the clones.

    Psychological critics consider the inner thoughts and mental damage that the author has placed on the characters, two of my critics fit into this school of criticism. Matthew Eatough and Marvin Mirsky mainly focus on the psychological toll and damage that can be caused by being a donor, especially a forced donor and the moral values that are violated. Ishiguro makes the donors have no freedom and live by strict laws so they never get a chance to live their own lives and that can be very damaging to a person’s confidence and mind.

    Archetypal critics consider all of the audiences finding things that people can create archetypes to and can relate to. Lisa Fluet is my only archetypal critic and she focuses on the immaterial labor of society that are enforced by the people of power which relates to the labor of organ donation by the government. Ishiguro mentions the involvement of the government through the project of clones and Hailsham to try and make the horrible thing of giving all of your organs till you die a little less horrible and it is an inescapable fate. Formalist critics analyze the plot, characterization, dialogue, etc. that the author has chosen to evaluate the theme and the meaning of the book. I have one formalist critic, Earl Ingersoll focuses on the importance of Kathy’s narrating and how Isghiguro uses her persona and life to communicate to the readers and audience.

    Sociological critics consider the literature versus society debate and focus on how society is portrayed and how it interacts with the characters, four of my critics belong to this school of criticism. Two critics, Shameem Black and Kai Yan go into detail describing the way human society treats and reacts towards the clone society. Yan specifically talks about the harshness of society creating being to just take out their organs and essentially kill them for the benefit of the human race. Cynthia Wong and Paul Narkunas focus on the raising of the clones at Hailsham, because they did not receive proper nurturing and direct care they are ill socialized with humans and sheltered from the outside world. Ishiguro incorporates human society throughout the book and the treatment of the clones by the humans.

    The clones are scientifically created beings that will eventually grow up and be harvested for their organs for the human beings in society. These clones are either lucky enough to be placed at a boarding school for just clones called Hailsham, a uniformed, organized boarding school with many rules, or they are raised some other less safe way. The Hailsham students as children are unaware that they are scientifically created without parents and are oblivious to their inescapable future of pain and death for forced organ donations. Ishiguro focuses on a society where organs and people that are made in a lab that can have emotions and feelings are not treated with dignity and are objectified. Robert Alcala in his article states, “the sleepless nights, the drugs, and the pain and the exhaustion that they as donors are forced to endure (Alcala 39). These donors may not be made through sex and conception but what constitutes the behavior of stripping them of all their organs and leaving them to die. The clones had a childhood, some were guarded and taught by Hailsham but society still proceeds to see them as if they do not deserve human dignity and sees them as the material objects of their organs.

    The social subjectivity of the clones is used as an project of individuals to benefit the people of society. Clones have no say and are forced by people of power to complete their donations. When Ruth and Tommy realized their feelings towards each other and wanted more time to live and to be together, they went to Hailsham’s old headmistress and one of their old guardians. Ruth and Tommy wanted to ask for a deferral for their next donations but they were informed that they do not exist, and were given false hope. Miss Emily, one of the old guardians said, “What harm is there? But for the two of you, I can see this doesn’t apply. You are serious. You’ve thought carefully. You hoped carefully. For students like you, I do feel regret. It gives me no pleasure at all to disappoint you. But there it is” (Ishiguro 258). Ruth and Tommy were enlightened that every clone is forced to fulfill completion and there is no postponing or escaping this assignment. People of society are so focused on keeping themselves alive with organs that they need, that they are going to look past the emotions and feelings of the clones to save themselves, treating them as just objects and materials.

    As the clones attend Hailsham, they subject to a future that they are not told about and cannot escape from. The students at Hailsham are pressured into creativity and to make beautiful artworks and poems without explanation and are punished and judged by other students and guardians if they do not supply creative enough work. One of the students, Tommy was shamed and judged by others because he refused to be creative like the other students. The headmistress made this a huge deal saying, The headmistress would come to Hailsham and collect the best pieces and not explain to the students about this. The students all have a theory that the headmistress picks the best works to submit to a gallery and all students want to get their work picked by the headmistress. The students try to figure out the purpose of the gallery and if it exists or not, and they all wanted their pieces picked by Madame, the headmistress. As the students get older, Kathy and Tommy are determined to find out what the Gallery was for. They come across madame who explained to them that she would use the pieces of artwork or projects they had been working on to prove to the general public that the clones have souls. Madame said, “You said it was because your art would reveal what you were like. What you were like inside…We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all”(Ishiguro 260). Kathy is taken aback by the fact that people would believe that they did not have souls, but they as Hailsham students never had to experience the “deplorable conditions” that others like them around their country face. Ishiguro focuses on how Hailsham’s adults believe that material objects and student-created artwork is enough to prove that the clones deserve human dignity and life and that other adults believed they did not deserve either.

    The obsession of the students’ artwork and projects from the school prove to the public that the clones have souls, goes back to a society that relies on material objects. The teachers and faculty at Hailsham are trying to derail these kids’ destinies by using material objects that were created by them to keep them alive. I do not believe that the students’ artwork is enough of a connection to the society to show that they have souls but in this dystopian novel the adults believe that these material objects have great strength and enough to show society that the clones are not just object themselves.

    The reliability and obsession with material objects is also shown through the sales and exchanges that happen at Hailsham. The students, as children, are not allowed to have personal possessions until they have the Exchanges. Ishiguro writes, “For a start, they were the only means, aside from the Sales… of building up a collection of personal possessions” (Ishiguro 16). These Exchanges and Sales were so important to the students because it gave them the opportunity to have material objects to be obsessed with and they all wanted possessions to link them to the outside. Kathy says, “The Sales were important to us because that was how we got hold of things from outside” (Ishiguro 41). The Hailsham students believe that material objects are what connects them to the outside and makes them like everyone else in society who is obsessed with materials. The students had no contact with the outside world and did not get to feel like part of society and by being able to have their own materials and have things to call their own made them feel more normal and humanistic. Sometimes students would break out in fights because the urges to have these objects is so dire. Ishiguro focuses on the students needing material possessions to feel apart of something and Kathy’s connection to a cassette she acquired at an sale demonstrates the need for possessions. Kathy was so heartbroken but when Ruth found another copy of the cassette she hugged her and said, “I felt the disappointment ebbing away and being replaced with real happiness” (Ishiguro 76). Ishiguro is saying here that Kathy only felt real happiness in the presence of material objects that she had created such a strong connection with.

    This dystopian novel where the dignity of the lives of the clones, human or nonhuman, is nonexistent and the clones are objectified to their organs is distasteful and appling. These clones have intellect, and emotion, and live in a society where love is not present. As one of the guardians explains that throughout the country clones are treated even worse than how Hailsham students were treated because the people of society are so obsessed with material objects and about keeping themselves alive with the organs that they have no reservation for the clones having to end their lives and give up all they have for them. Even with no contact to the outside of Hailsham the clones feel a need to have materials from the outside which they get in sales. This is because the characters live in a materialistic society focusing too much on objects and not others in society. The dystopian novel of Never Let Me Go could become our future.

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    Materialistic Society in Novel “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. (2022, Jun 07). Retrieved from

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