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Never Let Me Go

for English 121

Alexis Lothian

on 8 October 2013

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Transcript of Never Let Me Go

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
"My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year. .... I'm not trying to boast. But then I do know for a fact that they've been pleased with my work, and by and large, I have too. My donors have always tended to do much better than expected. Their recovery times have been impressive, and hardly any of them have been classified as "agitated," even before fourth donation." (3)
Novel published 2005; film adaptation 2010
What social machinery makes us who we are?
Is it possible to escape it?

Reading a novel critically:
Pay attention to your reactions!
What is the narrative's tone?
How does it make you feel?
"England, late 1990s"
What do we learn about the narrator from this passage?
What do we learn about the setting?
What is/was Hailsham?
medical examinations
"the Gallery"
Kathy's memories
"He could hardly breathe, but he looked towards me and said: 'Hailsham. I bet that was a beautiful place.' Then the next morning, when I was making conversation to keep his mind off it all, and I asked where he'd grown up, he mentioned some place in Dorset and his face beneath the blotches went into a completely new kind of grimace.
What he wanted was not just to hear about Hailsham, but to remember Hailsham, just like it had been his own childhood. (5)
That was when I first understood, really understood, just how lucky we'd been––Tommy, Ruth, me, all the rest of us. (6)
Miss Lucy: “for you, all of you, it’s worse, much worse to smoke than it ever was for me ... You’re students. You’re special. So keeping yourselves well, keeping yourselves very healthy inside, that’s much more important for each of you than it is for me.”
Kathy: “We certainly knew––though not in any deep sense––that we were different ... But we didn’t really know what that meant. If we were keen to avoid certain topics, it was probably more because it embarrassed us.” (68)
who are the students?
how much do they know?
“I can still see it now, the shudder she seemed to be suppressing, the real dread that one of us would accidentally brush up against her. And though we just kept on walking, we all felt it; it was like we’d walked from the sun right into chilly shade. Ruth had been right: Madame was afraid of us. But she was afraid of us in the same way someone might be afraid of spiders. We hadn’t been ready for that. It had never occurred to us to wonder how we might feel, being seen like that, being the spiders.” (35)
"We’d been [...] talking about soldiers in World War Two being kept in prison camps. One of the boys asked if the fences around the camps had been electrified, and then someone else had said how strange it must have been, living in a place like that, where you could commit suicide any time you liked just by touching a fence. [...] For a moment things got riotous, with everyone shouting and mimicking touching electric fences. [...] I went on watching Miss Lucy [...] I could see a ghostly expression come across her face. [...] she pulled herself together, smiled, and said “It’s just as well the fences at Hailsham aren’t electrified. You get terrible accidents sometimes" (78)
Tommy thought it possible the guardians had, throughout all our years at Hailsham, timed very carefully and deliberately everything they told us, so that we were always just too young to understand properly the latest piece of information. But of course we’d take it in at some level, so that before long all this stuff was there in our heads without us ever having examined it properly.
"Your lives are set out for you. You’ll become adults, then before you’re old, before you’re even middle-aged, you’ll start to donate your vital organs. That’s what each of you was created to do." (81)
Miss Lucy: "The problem, as I see it, is that you’ve been told and not told. You’ve been told, but none of you really understand, and I dare say, some people are quite happy to leave it that way. (68)
Why does Miss Lucy think the students should know what they are? Do you agree?

What "stuff" is "there in our heads without us ever having examined it properly?"
Where are the fences at Hailsham?
I’m sure somewhere in your childhood, you too had an experience like ours that day; similar if not in the actual details, then inside, in the feelings. [...] Maybe from as early as when you’re five or six, there’s been a whisper going at the back of your head, saying: “One day, maybe not so long from now, you’ll get to know how it feels.” So you’re waiting, even if you don’t quite know it, waiting for the moment when you realise you really are different to them; that there are people out there, like Madame, who don’t hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you––of how you were brought into this world and why––and who dread the idea of your hand brushing against theirs. The first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it’s a cold moment. It’s like walking past a mirror you’ve walked past every day of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else, something troubling and strange. (36)
How does it feel to be a clone?
How do non-clones feel about clones?
We all know it, so why don't we all face it. [...] We're modelled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just so long as they aren't psychos. That's what we come from. [...] That other woman in there [...] Art students, that's what she thought we were. Do you think she'd have talked to us like that if she'd known what we really were? What do you think she'd have said if we'd asked her 'Excuse me, but do you think your friend was ever a clone model?' She'd have thrown us out. We know it, so we might as well just say it. If you want to look for possibles, if you want to do it properly, then you look in the gutter. You look in rubbish bins. Look down the toilet, that's where you'll find where we all came from. (166)
"yet another Culture Briefing" (110)
"out there sex meant all sorts of things" (84)
"so many of their mannerisms were copied from the television" (120)
How do the students prepare for adulthood?
According to Kathy, what were Madame’s feelings in this situation
She doesn't wish harm on them, but they are scummy and make her cringe. Symbolic that she clutched her briefcase getting out of car -- afraid before she saw the kids.
What do you think Madame might have been thinking? Why might she have felt afraid
Clones are not really "human"; their purpose in being created is to donate organs, their purpose to donate organs. Would creep anybody out. She felt bad for them, thinking about their futures - like when Kathy is dancing in her room. Extreme sensitivity - she is afraid for them. What if they tried to escape and gang up on her - she could be threatened. The same way people treat a stray dog -- want to pet, fearing a bite
What does Madame’s reaction tell us about the way donors are viewed in society at large
She looks at them like whole instead of individual person. They are locked away for a reason -- no one wants to see them, society worries that they are weird. Donors are viewed as second class citizens, not equivalent to anybody on the outside. Idea of the clones might still be taboo, controversial. Madame might be a sample of one side of what society thinks. Ruth freaked out saying they are cloned from trash -- does society know this cloning is going on, where the organs come from?
If Madame is so afraid of the students, why do you think she keeps coming to Hailsham?
To get the artwork to show that the clones are normal - they have minds of their own and a creative side. She understands that the world needs the donors even if she doesn't agree. She didn't seem like an advocate, but is doing a job nobody wants and getting paid. Maybe she is coming for organs for herself.
What do you think is going to happen next?
Tommy and Kathy together? Kathy going to run?
What questions do you want the second half of the novel to answer?
Why didn't they run sooner? There's no supervision in Cottages.
What happened to the artwork in the Gallery?
Class discussion
How do the students transition into being carers and donors? Do they understand what is in store for them?
Do they have a choice? How has Hailsham prepared them?
"more and more students were going off to be carers, and among our old Hailsham crowd, there was a growing feeling this was the natural course to follow. We still had our essays to finish, but it was well known we didn't really have to finish them if we chose to start our training." (197)
"Some people just aren't cut out for it, and for them the whole thing becomes a real struggle. They might start off positively enough, but then comes all that time spent so close to the pain and the worry. ... Some of us learn pretty quick how to deal with it. But others –– like Laura, say –– they never do" (207)
Kathy's life - 208
"'I was pretty much ready when I became a donor. It felt right. After all, it's what we're supposed to be doing, isn't it?'
... it was the sort of thing you hear donors say to each other all the time." (227)
Why do you think the myth of deferral "keeps arising" no matter what the Guardians at Hailsham do?
Do you agree with Tommy that it's best Ruth completes before she learns the truth about Hailsham?
What did you think about the end of Kathy and Tommy's story?
Ishiguro talks about his novel
"it might look as though you were simply pawns in a game. But think of it. You were lucky pawns." (266)
"sometimes [...] we kept things from you, lied to you. But we sheltered you during those years, and we gave you your childhoods. You wouldn't be who you are today if we'd not protected you ... you wouldn't have lost yourselves in your art and your writing ... you would have told us it was all pointless, and how could we have argued with you?" (268)
Tommy, about his rages: "Maybe I did know, somewhere deep down. Something the rest of you didn't."
"Why did we take your artwork? [...] You said it was because your art would reveal what you were like. What you were like inside. [...] Well, you weren't far wrong about that. 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." (260)
"'There, look!' we could say. 'Look at this art! How dare you claim these children are anything less than fully human?'" (262)
Whatever else, we at least saw to it that all of you in our care, you grew up in wonderful surroundings. And we saw to it too, after you left us, you were kept away from the worst of those horrors. [...] But this dream of yours, this dream of being able to defer. Such a thing would always have been beyond us to grant, even at the height of our influence. [...] But you musn't be dejected. [...] Look at you both now! You've had good lives, you're educated and cultured. (260-1)
I was thinking about the rubbish, the flapping plastic in the branches, the shore-line of odd stuff caught along the fencing, and I half-closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I had lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it, and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field, and gradually get larger until I'd see it was Tommy, and he'd wave, maybe even call. The fantasy never got beyond that––I didn't let it––and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn't sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be. (287-288)
The purpose of Hailsham
Do you agree with Miss Emily?
What makes Tommy and Kathy human?
Is it art? Love? Imagination? Dreams?
What calls humanity into question?
"Poor creatures" (254)
“there are radically different ways in which human physical vulnerability is distributed across the globe. Certain lives will be highly protected, and the abrogation of their claims to sanctity will be sufficient to mobilize the forces of war. And other lives will not find such fast and furious support and will not even qualify as 'grievable.' ... certain lives are not considered lives at all.” Judith Butler

[abrogate: to repeal or do away with] | [sanctity: importance, undeniable value]
Which lives in the real world do you think Butler might have been talking about?
Who is most protected and who is considered less than human?
World war 2: Hitler and non-Aryan populations. Spanish Inquisition: dehumanized pagan and nonCatholic beliefs.
Most protected: the President, educated; wealthy; pretty; people with authority; the norm. Least protected: mentally ill; handicapped; junkies; pervs; different; ugly.
Race: white protected, people of color less protected;
least protected: the poor. Most protected: first world countries; least protected: Africa, middle east.
I ... was swaying about slowly in time to the song, holding an imaginary baby to my breast.Oh baby, baby, never let me go [...]I opened my eyes to find Madame framed in the doorway. [...] And the odd thing was that she was crying. [...] she just went on standing out there, sobbing and sobbing, staring at me through the doorway with that same look in her eyes she always had when she looked at us, like she was seeing something that gave her the creeps. Except this time there was something else, something extra in that look I couldn’t fathom. (72)
What was the "something extra" in Madame's look?

How does this moment cast light on what was really happening at Hailsham?
Kathy and the tape again
from book to film
visual design
key scenes
How does including this explanation change your understanding of the story?
What are we seeing in this scene? What understanding of Kathy does it give you?
"Never let me go..."
the fences at Hailsham
encountering the outside
I was thinking about the rubbish, the flapping plastic in the branches, the shore-line of odd stuff caught along the fencing, and I half-closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I had lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it, and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field, and gradually get larger until I'd see it was Tommy, and he'd wave, maybe even call. The fantasy never got beyond that––I didn't let it––and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn't sobbing or out of control. I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be. (287-288)
does the film create a different feeling from the book about who the clones are, how they feel about their life?
How did the film differ from the book?
What effect do the differences have?
Why do you think the filmmakers made these changes?
beginning with the end...
what is the effect of the addition to Kathy's last words?
the beginning: setting up the premise
How do the visual elements of this scene, and the actors' performances, influence your interpretation?
what do these details add to the narrative?
what does the film version add to (or subtract from) these moments in the narrative?
Full transcript