BUS 100 Chapter Notes -Kazuo Ishiguro, Human Cloning, Barter

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Published on 3 Oct 2012
Ryerson University
BUS 100
After the end of the version of Never Let Me Go I read, there are some study guide questions to
help frame the reader's understanding of the story. One contains a quote from author Kazuo
Ishiguro, who says of the students / clones who are the main characters, "How are they are trying
to find their place in the world and make sense of their lives? How can they transcend their fate? ...
Most of the things that concern them concern us all, but with them it is concertinaed into this
relatively short period of time." I think this is the kind of thinking that the novel tries to provoke:
when we think about why the major characters pursue love, sex, art, friendship, and meaning even
though they are doomed to a life of donating their organs and ultimately dying, it is a short leap to
note that our lives are finite in nature and wonder about the value of how we spend our time on this
Beyond that, though, I think the book provides an answer in art. The students at Hailsham all are
encouraged to produce art. They are competitive, trying to create works good enough to be placed
in Madame's "Gallery." Art services as currency in the Hailsham society, as students barter with
each other for their works in "exchanges." Once students have graduated they're encouraged to
work on theses while they reside at the Cottages. Art is a core element of their curriculum. Why is
art so important to the students? And how does that relate to art as a core theme in Never Let Me
Art is a window to the soul. This point is made explicitly late in the story and is alluded to at
other points throughout. It is very interesting that Ishiguro uses the word "soul," as the novel has
very few explicitly religious elements. There is no real suggestion of an afterlife or a God. It seems
like he is almost using it as a secular term, suggesting a transcendent emotional self and not
necessary an immortal spiritual self. Still, it's clear that art created in the story or read or viewed by
the characters in the story suggests a deeper meaning to the human experience.
Art is a past time. Kathy and the other characters rarely watch TV (and she describes television
and its effects somewhat disdainfully), but they read, write, and draw quite a bit. Even towards the
end of the story, when Kathy and Tommy have given up on art as a literal salvation, they still sit
together with Kathy reading and Tommy drawing, simply because they enjoy the process of
creating and the journey of discovering what others have created.
Art reinforces memory. Memory is a key element in Never Let Me Go; the whole story is told in
flashbacks. Kathy's regrets often focus around art: a source of trauma is the loss of her favorite
cassette, and she particularly laments the loss of a calendar with scenes of Hailsham that she had
obtained at an exchange. Towards the end of the story, Tommy and Kathy see a painting on the
wall at Madame's house and argue about whether it is a scene from Hailsham. It is a curious scene
during a charged moment in the story, and it is telling that a piece of art is the focus of it. Lastly,
we have the novel itself. It is never clear exactly to whom Kathy is narrating the story or for what
purpose, but it seems to be an attempt to preserve her memories and make sure the legacies of
Ruth, Tommy, and Hailsham live on.
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