Essay on 'Never Let Me Go' Characters

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Explore the notion that the characters in Huxley's 'Brave New World' and Ishiguro's 'Never Let Me Go' are caught in an 'endless struggle to find identity' (Samuel Humey).

Most humans, at some point in their life, strive to be an individual. That sense of singularity is for many the root of their lone identity. This development of character is inhibited in the titular characters of Ishiguro's 'Never Let Me Go' and Huxley's 'Brave New World'. Inhibited in such a way that their futures, their names, their very beings are decided for them. From cloning to conditioning, there are varying ways that the world of both Never Let Me Go and Brave New World constrain the characters from developing their individuality as humans, showing that the characters do face an 'endless struggle to find identity,' which will be demonstrated in this essay.

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In both novels, conditioning of the characters is used to make them indistinctively from each other, stripping them of their identity. However, there is a difference in how this outcome is achieved. The conditioning used in Brave New World is more obvious than the conditioning of the characters used in Never Let Me Go, which is more subtly utilized.

In Never Let Me Go, Kathy recalls a memory while at Hailsham; she mentions that they had been 'told and not told,' about their predetermined futures of being a carer and then a donor. In the line, 'the guardians managed to smuggle into our heads a lot of basic facts about our futures,' you see the verb, 'smuggle' used which connotes secrecy. The use of such a word in this context implies that the 'guardians' did not want the clones to recognize the true reality of their situational futures. Instead, by using such tactics they were able to subtly explain, using ambiguity as a conscious device, so that they would accept the reality of how their future was without question. For example, in Kathy's comment, 'I always knew about donations in some vague way'; the word, 'vague,' emphasizes that they were never told the truth - rather they were given bits and pieces until their fate was inevitably accepted as normal. Contextually, during the 1990s, Thatcher was prime minister - with this came much social divide between rich and poor. This divide can be symbolized in the clones' separation between the 'originals' and themselves and how they serve them through the donating of their organs for the original's benefit. Mrs Emily, in the novel, illustrates this belief: 'How can you ask a world that has come to regard cancer as curable: to put away that cure?'. Therefore, the characters of 'Never Let Me Go' are subtly conditioned from a young age, never being given all the facts, and as a result, accept this role as donors. Individuality is not encouraged in the clones because it would destroy this system, the very ideology, which is deemed essential by the non-clones that benefit from such a system.

Conversely, in Brave New World conditioning of the characters is used to give them shared ideals that inhibit their individuality. For example, the numerous infant clones are conditioned into hating and liking things: 'I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able: ' The use of literary exposition to describe how the infants are cruelly conditioned illustrates how desensitized the society is towards such actions, setting an uncomfortable tone. Furthermore, these ideals of hating certain castes are shown to be cemented into the minds of the characters, proving the conditioning of their minds as seen through Bernard's repulsion of his physical appearance: 'Bernard's physique was hardly better than the average Gamma.' With this, Bernard's insecurity of his 'physical inadequacy' stems from his conditioning to dislike lower castes such as Gammas'. Height is deemed a factor of superiority, therefore the lower the caste, the smaller the stature - being an Alpha, Bernard has superiority as the highest caste. Hilal Ayar states: 'When Bernard communicated with a person from sub-class, he feels physical deficiency,' which supports the argument that Bernard struggles with his identity through not knowing how to identify in a society that runs on these rules to keep order. With Bernard's deficiency, he becomes aware of his faults, just as the lower the other castes become aware and lack respect for him. This breakdown of societal rules acts as the turning point for his disintegration of identity: ''I am I, and I wish I wasn't. What he thought he knew becomes redundant once he is outcasted. He can no longer define himself on those societal rules - the rules he was conditioned to adhere to. In terms of psychoanalytic theory, Freud hypothesized the theory of repression; repression of ideas and conventions that can cause anxiety. Here Bernard shows he is very aware of his physical inadequacies, and he tries to repress them. He does not like the characteristics that make him different. Therefore, these ideas that are implanted into the minds of the characters since infancy influence their everyday lives; through this, they are no longer given the freedom to choose for themselves their likes and dislikes, which inhibits the growth of identity.

Overall, both Never Let Me Go and Brave New World condition their characters to accept their predestined places in society from a young age, however, Brave New World uses a more direct way of expressing this through literary exposition to describe in detail the processes. Meanwhile, Never Let Me Go uses a subtler language which implies the conditioning was less obvious.

Arguably, in both novels society plays a decisive role in the repressed identities of the characters through their predetermined roles, showing that the characters do indeed have an 'endless struggle for identity'.

This is instantly demonstrated at the beginning of 'Never Let Me Go' when Kathy identifies herself as 'My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years.' The delivery of this line, using first-person narrative, appears innocuous at first. However, pairing the words 'carer' with her age or name shows how embedded the role enforced upon her has become; being a 'carer' is one of the distinguishing factors she identifies with - just as important as her age or name. The use of first-person narrative in the line emphasizes this disparity as it is said so fluidly, making it a cruel revelation when the truth is later revealed. Also, the narrative throughout the whole book leads to more questions than revelations, which creates a sense of distrust in the truth; this was a prominent feature in the postmodernism movement that the book was inspired by. This acts as a representation of how memory is treated. Kathy's memories are fleeting and due to that, a sense of incompleteness is always present. The truth is that all clones were born to donate their organs - it is an ordained path the clones take on from conception. The role minimalizes their importance and dehumanizes them to the status of mere cattle. This truth is hinted at throughout the novel, but it is not until the end that the full picture is revealed, leading to a distrust of Kathy's narrative. As soon as a revelation is close to being revealed, Kathy changes the topic. Furthermore, the rejection of a true career, as seen in the line, 'and your futures, all of them, have been decided' also limits their ability to grow individually, foreshadowing that when Kathy and Tommy eventually decide to think about their futures by asking for a deferral from donorship, they will not receive it. Lina Svensk states that the clones' individuality is practically 'worthless on their own,' and the statement could not be truer; the clones' place in society is to be organ farms, nothing else. Therefore, Kathy's given role in society shows that she is in an 'endless struggle to find identity' because she is forcibly given her role in life and not freely given the ability to develop her place in society. Instead, with all the other clones, she is forced into the same margin. In society, individuality is inconvenient.

Alternatively, Brave New World shows that characters do face an 'endless struggle to find individuality' as their choices are pre-determined before they are born, demonstrated through the World Controller's speech which describes how the World State controls lives: 'they're blissfully ignorant of passion or old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives or children, or lovers to feel strongly about: ' The choice of the verb, 'plagued' to describe having choices like choosing a lover, parents to love and care for, or even having a child, create the idea that these things are an inconvenience. However, removing the possibility of these choices takes away a vital part of what makes humanity irrevocably human. The clones no longer have the right to choose whether they want to be a child, parent, or partner; the World State holds control over such a choice. With this, their freedom to choose their identity is taken away by societal rules and pre-determined paths. Here, Brave New World truly echoes that it is indeed a dystopian society; Huxley created this novel to explore what he believed could have been the future of society had Nazi Germany won. A concoction of a totalitarian, communist, capitalist community that rides solely on the decisions of a powerful minority. However, it is shown that defective clones are sent away to an island that is filled with people who, 'have gotten too self-consciously individual to fit into community life: all the people who've got independent ideas: Everyone, in a word, who's anyone.' This shows that there are people and places in the society of Brave New World where people can be individuals and have a sense of identity. Though, most clones are not offered the chance to choose their identity for themselves, but those who are aware enough to realize something is wrong, are given the chance to relocate and become who they want to be with stipulations. This shows that in some ways there is an 'endless struggle to find identity,' but if they look hard enough, they will find it.

Both novels show that they pre-determine the path of the clones, not giving them the option to have children or a career, among others. The difference is that the choice to find your identity is there in Huxley's novel; it's just incredibly difficult to find, while in Never Let Me Go, their birth to death is controlled stringently.

It can be shown that both novels use clones to inhibit the individuality of the characters, as well as reflect fear of technological and scientific advancement in the real world. This affects the clones' ability to find identity as they deal with the stigmatic bias society projects onto them.

This idea is portrayed through Ruth, who attempts to find her 'possible'; to Ruth, this serves as a way to define herself. Kathy says, 'But now, in that gallery, the woman was too close, much closer than we'd ever really wanted. And the more we heard and looked at her, the less she seemed like Ruth.' The idea that the woman was too close, 'more than we'd ever really wanted,' implies that they did not want to acknowledge that they were not originals - that their uniqueness was not that at all. This creates an uncomfortable tone that contrasts the previously excited one when they find the possibility of discovering their origin. Furthermore, Ruth's insecurity became known as she stated, that they couldn't be clones of people like that, and instead were clones of 'trash'. This exploration into Ruth's 'possible' origin also serves as a way for Ruth to prove something about her identity; you can feel an edge of insecurity in her character. She truly believes that they as clones are worthless. This insecurity is buried deep within her, as she attempts to create an illusion of superiority to mask her true feelings. However, when faced with the originals, it brings a sense of discomfort to acknowledge that she is a replica; she can never work in an office or be her person. Hilal Ayar states that Ruth tries to, 'show herself as superior by creating an illusion' which directly crumbles when faced with the possibility of her origin. Her true belief shows in this scene, confirming that she struggles to find her identity, because she does not know how to define herself, and thinks herself worthless. In a later chapter, it is shown that the originals have an inherent fear of the clones, which dehumanizes them more so: 'Oh no. That frightened people. They recoiled from that.' The characters had known about this sense of disgust from a young age, as seen in their interaction with Madam in Hailsham: ': the shuddering that she seemed to be suppressing: she was afraid of us.' This, highlights that they had been dealing with this insecurity their whole life; they were never truly accepted as fear and disgust led to the adults alienating them. This fear of the clones directly reflects fear of eugenics in the 1990s - with the cloning of Dolly the Sheep, questions began to arise about how ethical the use of genetic modification was. Overall, Ruth's experience with finding her 'possible' leads to her true insecurity being revealed. This inhibited the growth of identity. She is trapped by the stigma society projects onto her and fails to differentiate between herself and 'trash'.

In similar thought, Lina Svensk comments that cloning deprives, 'both the clone and the original of their uniqueness'. The use of cloning in Brave New World serves to highlight societal order and lack of individuality through its rigorous 'Bokanovsky's Process' described as: 'Ninety-six identical twins: one of the major instruments of social stability!' One of the ways a person can find individuality is through their appearance or name. These features are unique to most humans, and so serve as a way to differentiate and categorize. Through Bokanovsky's Process, this uniqueness is taken away to the extreme - their intelligence is genetically modified to serve society better; 'But in Epsilons: we don't need intelligence.' With intelligence and sentience taken away, it can be argued that there is nothing left but a mechanical shell designed to do a job. Not dissimilar to a robot. Huxley published Brave New World in 1932, after WWI, as a warning - scientific development was advancing to greater heights than ever observed before, and with this came fear. This fear is represented in the exaggeration of eugenic advancement seen in the novel. Therefore, the use of Bokanovsky's Process results in the clones losing their ability to find identity because they are deprived of their unique characteristics; everything from their stature to intelligence is the same.

In summary, while both novels make use of clones, Ishiguro has created a sense of reality throughout Never Let Me Go, that reflects modern-day fears. His representation of science and clones is an eerie warning to the near future that could be. Brave New World, instead, exaggerates the use of clones; the book portrays genetic modification and scientific advancement as more unrealistic than Never Let Me Go does, and this serves as a reminder that it is fiction. In both, you see the loss of identity as the characters struggle to define themselves.

In conclusion, both the novels do indeed show the characters caught in an 'endless struggle to find identity' through many different elements and themes. The ending of the book signifies the lack of resolution for the characters' inability to find identity and a place of belonging - John commits suicide and Kathy is left alone, isolated. This cyclical end is representative of the character's endless struggle: with identity.

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