Saturday, May 23, 2009


I recently came across an interesting discussion of Never Let Me Go on Crooked Timber, sparked off by this post by Jo Walton, and specifically by this quote:

"Some critics have suggested it’s implausible that a whole class of people could be created to donate and die and yet been permitted to drive around from centre to centre and go into shops and service stations. I have no problem with it. The worst tortures are the ones you do to yourself. They are a class, they know their place."

Walton goes on to assert that the clones are modelled after the English working class, which likewise passively accepts its lot.

I disagree with Walton. I was surprised that nobody picked up on OO's clearly true observation, in the Crooked Timber thread, that "the clones did find possibilities other than having their organs harvested very attractive. ... the Cottages are pervaded with the clones’ desperation for an alternative other than dying." I would add that the students at Hailsham were not given an education which emphasizes submissiveness and knowing one's place. In fact the education Hailsham provided, with its emphasis on art and creativity, greatly resembled an upper middle-class education (allowing for the material poverty of Hailsham itself). If Kathy appears to never think of escape, it's not because she "cheerful[ly] accept[s]" her fate, as Walton claims. Rather, it's because she has already ruled the idea out as hopeless, and therefore thinking about it would be too painful.

Something else that occurred to me after reading the Crooked Timber discussion: As far as I remember, until the final scene with Miss Emily, the "donations" are always talked about as something that just happens, almost as if they were a natural process. This is even true of Miss Lucy's revelation and of the discussion of "possibles." Emily, in her final scene, is the first to acknowledge that the clones die because society has chosen to have them die, and society could have chosen differently.

My earlier posts on Never Let Me Go are here, here, here and here.

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