Analysis of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Novel ‘Never Let Me Go’ and Andrew Niccol’s Film ‘Gattaca’
Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel ‘Never Let Me Go’ and Andrew Niccol’s film ‘Gattaca’ portray dystopian worlds where many individuals are victim to the discrimination and the pre-determined causes provided by their fate as being classified as ‘sub-humans’. In ‘Never Let Me Go’, Kazuo Ishiguro exhibits a dystopian world where many individuals are cloned from others to be used as organ donors and also display the circumstances that the students have to face as they are blindly raised to fulfil the roles as ‘donors’. This is explored within the eyes of the Hailsham student, Kathy H., as the novel explores her experiences within Hailsham and after she left in an attempt to create a perfect world for many individuals. In contrast, Andrew Niccol’s film, ‘Gattaca’, depicts a dystopian world where genetic engineering is accepted within the community as a common practice and plays a primary role in the determination of the social class. This explores Vincent’s character as he is conceived and born without the aid of this technology and suffers from the nearly eradicated physical dysfunctions of myopia and a congenital heart defect, as well as being given the life expectancy of 30.2 years while facing extreme genetic discrimination and prejudice. While these works contrast one another they both explore the themes of fate and free will and challenge the reader’s sense of individuality. These works also show the attitudes that the characters have towards the hand that they have been dealt and the challenges that they face to complete their individual goals while conforming within the social expectations. This also leaves the readers questioning the ways that the characters within ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘Gattaca’ control their fates.
Both works display a dystopian world that presents multiple situations where the characters fate is explored through the idea of identity and individuality. In ‘Never Let Me Go’, Kazuo Ishiguro displays the concepts that the donor’s and carer’s fate is pre-determined and challenges this idea as the novel progresses while the students blindly accept their fate as they are unaware of the problems that they will face in the foreseeable future. This is displayed as Miss Lucy explains to the students that their ‘lives are set out for them’. This comment shows that the students are unable to lead their own lives that they may dream because their creation has pre-determined their fate as they have been created for the use to ‘donate vital organs’ as the students have limited control over their lives and the destiny that they would like to fulfil and are partly aware of the situations that Miss Lucy is alluding towards. This is also reinforced as Ishiguro provides the students without full names but only initials such as Kathy H. and Tommy D. This deprives the students of a connection with a family and a sense of individuality as they don’t have a connection that is provided to them. The lack of identity is also further reinforced as the students are brought up and educated within a system that is just like every other while conforming to their destiny that has already been determined. Niccol’s ‘Gattaca’ also explores these notations of identity and individuality as people’s identity is tied to their genetic makeup. Vincent and Jerome are both characters that defy this notion as Vincent challenges the system to discover his true potential while Jerome, who had his potential guaranteed at birth, is tragically undermined. This is explored as Vincent is told that he needs to be ‘realistic’ and that the only way he would see the inside of a spaceship is if he were cleaning it. This is challenged by Vincent as he changes the person that he appears to be and only he knows what his ‘limitations’ are which frees him of who he is meant to be.
Whilst some characters choose to pursue their individual goals, others prefer to work within the expectations and confines of society. This is conveyed within ‘Never Let Me Go’ as Kathy and the students from Hailsham are created or the donation of vital organs and the caring of others while they are going through the same process. This is shown within the conflict that occurs between the characters individual goals and the social expectations from the community that govern these ideals. The students start to make plans for the future while hoping that they might get to live their lives even though the plans that are presented might be impossible or highly improbable. An example of this is shown as Ruth wants to have a normal office job whilst the idea is sprung from the sight of an advertisement within a magazine as the students have no first-hand experience in finding a job. Ishiguro is content with this as the students at Hailsham have no future as their lives have been pre-determined as they have no choice in terms of a personal life or career as the only jobs that they are allowed to complete are a carer and a donor. Andrew Niccol’s ‘Gattaca’ also explores this notion as Vincent despite being born as an ‘in-valid’ chooses to ridicule society’s confines and expectations as he adopts the identity of Jerome Eugene Morrow to challenge his identity. This is conveyed as Vincent states that it doesn’t matter how much you train or learn you still have to ‘have a blood test to go with it’ and conforms to the standards as he uses the identity of Jerome to gain an advantage towards his dream. This is also shown after the swimming rivalry as this victory is a critical turning point as he is given the courage to ignore societies expectations and pursue his dream. As Vincent leaves home to forge a new personality, he rips his photo out of the photograph, literally tearing away his visual identity and taking on the ‘valid’ personality of Jerome which enables him to ‘sculpt’ a new identity to succeed within ‘Gattaca’.
Within these works, the idea of the human spirit vs genetic determinism is explored as ‘Never Let Me Go’ relates the idea of creativity is directly related to the idea of being perceived as human. As clones, Hailsham students are forced to produce artwork and is viewed to gauge whether one has a soul as most people within the outside world view these students within Hailsham as soulless bodies that are incapable of producing human emotion but are contrasted within the guardians as they believe that even though they are grown up in a secluded environment it is possible to grow up as sensitive as any ordinary human being. This is shown as the guardian encourage the students to create their art so that they can prove to the outside world that they have a soul and are human. ‘Gattaca’ also portrays the importance of the human spirit as the society that is dictated by rules. This is shown as Vincent is classified as an ‘in-valid’, but is able to achieve his dreams through optimism and determination as he takes victory in achieving his dreams. Niccol conveys this as it is stated that “there is no gene for the human spirit” as Vincent succeeds even with a disadvantage at the start of his life.
Both Ishiguro’s novel ‘Never Let Me Go’ and Niccol’s film ‘Gattaca’ are works that acknowledge the potential issues that surround fate and free will and how individuals respond towards the terms that they face within the foreseeable future and the constraints that are imposed by society. These works both acknowledge the concepts of genetic technologies and their advancements to question the readers own views and values towards the future of genetic engineering. Both works place the characters at the hands of fate, free will and the confines of the society that the characters face as it displays the different attitudes that the characters take as they face these dilemmas.
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