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Never Let Me Go: Feminism and Race

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Eliquewa Santiago

on 9 December 2015

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Transcript of Never Let Me Go: Feminism and Race

Main Points
The three main characters conform in different ways to patriarchal gender roles, but where they grow up--Hailsham--is not a patriarchy
Patriarchal gender roles are most apparent at the Cottages
Becoming a carer and a donor also contribute to the patriarchal gender roles
are punished for being feminine
Men are supposed to be economically successful-- the provider for a household
Anger is used by men as compensation for economic failure
Ruth and Kathy
Ruth tries to fit into feminine gender roles, but not until she gets to the cottages
Copies Chrissie and Rodney
Shames Kathy for having sex
Shames Tommy for not being a "proper" boyfriend
Kathy is very nurturing
especially towards Tommy
Never Let Me Go song
Doesn't show aggression, even towards Ruth
Ashamed of her sexuality
Is a carer for 11 years--maternal
The Guardians
The Guardians are mostly women
Almost every Guardian is addressed as "Miss"
They are parental figures for all of the children
Miss Lucy tells Tommy that he does not have to be good at making art
Guardians do not allow the clones to have sex and do what they can to prevent it
The Cottages
Is still isolated but clones are allowed to have more contact with the outside world
Able to make their own decisions
They can travel to town during the day
Watch TV and read magazines
Exposes them to gender roles
Very little supervision
Hailsham is an isolated school for clones in England
While there are typical gender roles displayed (i.e. playing sports) they are all encouraged to express themselves in non-masculine ways
All boys are encouraged to create art
Boys and girls are treated the same
Never Let Me Go: Feminism and Race
According to Patriarchal Gender Roles...
Carers v. Donors
Being a carer is a more feminine job
Required to take care of donors while in recovery
Being a donor is a more masculine job
Being a provider is simliar to being the provider in an household
Carer v. Donor: Characters
Was only a carer for a few years
Was a very sucessful donor
Was a decent carer for about five years
Commited after her second donation due to her fragile states
Was a carer for a total of 11 years
Had not yet become a donor
Kathy and the song
"What I'd imagine was a woman who'd been so she couldn't have babies, who'd really, really wanted them her whole life. Then there's a sort of miracle and she has a baby, and she holds this baby very close to her and walks around singing: "Baby, never let me go..." partly because she's so happy, but also because she's so afraid something will happen" (70).
Queer Theory & Feminism
- Ishiguro's exploration of the contingency
of human identity has a significant relation-
ship to to heteronormative constructions of
heterosexuality and the human being.
- "Is she afraid of you? We're all afraid of you.
I myself had to fight back my dread of you
almost every day" (Ishiguro 2005, Pg. 264)
- In the face of such stigma, Ishiguro's protagonists are forced to "pass" in the world of "normals". If they're perceived by others to be strange or- in other words, "queer"- this can be attributed to their unconventional relationship to reproductive as human clones.
Queer Theory & Feminism
This section implies that Kathy has a maternal instinct.
According to Beauvoir, "women are not even born with a maternal instinct" (Tyson, 92)
Rather, it is the patriarchal society that makes women maternal
But there is no set patriarchy within Hailsham
Her actions prove to Madame that she has a soul, but she is just conforming to patriarchal standards
-"A woman is not a person in her
own right. She is man's Other:
she is less than a man; she is a
kind of alien in a man's world; she is not a fully developed human being the way a man is." (Tyson 2015. Pg. 92)
Women are supposed to be nurturing and maternal
Women are more open about their emotions
But at the same time, must never show agression.
Tommy does not have a masculine figure at Hailsham
Making art serves two purposes:
economic (tokens and the Sales)
proof that the clones have souls
Tommy is bad at making art
compensates with tantrums (anger)
Is teased about them until he eventually surpresses them
After Hailsham he continues to show a mix of masculine and feminine traits
He makes art for the sake of love
He is a great donor but wasn't a carer for long
Arrival to The Cottages
We arrived at the Cottages expecting a version of Hailsham for older students...We certainly didn't think much about our lives beyond the Cottages, or about who ran them, or how they fitted into the larger world." (116)
Queer Theory & Feminism:
In Conclusion
- While the protagonists of Never Let Me Go - Kathy, Ruth & Tommy- are heterosexual they are still at odds with heterosexual norms; more specifically, as the product of technologies of assisted reproduction but genetically engineered to be unable to reproduce, their relationship to reproductive sexuality is a paradox.
- Ishiguro's clones can be interpreted as embodying a heterosexual identity which is disempowered and marginalised by heteronormativity; as such they reveal the tensions and contradictions at work within and between heterosexuality as an institution and as an identity.
Tommy as a Carer vs. Donor
“There was this guy, at my centre. Always worried he wouldn't make it past his second. Used to say he could feel it in his bones. But it all turned out fine. He's just come through his third now, and he's completely all right.” He put up a hand to shield his eyes. “I wasn't much good as a carer. Never learnt to drive even. I think that's why the notice for my first came so early. I know it's not supposed to work that way, but I reckon that's what it was. Didn't mind really. I'm a pretty good donor, but I was a lousy carer.”
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