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Social Systems Depending On Disempowering People In Stasiland And Never Let Me Go

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What do Stasiland and Never Let Me Go suggest about social systems that depend on disempowering people?


  • Control and Surveillance
  • Different worlds set up by both regimes
  • Rebellion and Fight Back

In both Anna Funder’s Stasiland and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, respective regimes employ various methods to control its citizens. In many ways, both governments leave individuals with little power, essentially stripping them of their basic human rights. Surveillance is used in both worlds to monitor its people as a way to maintain control over their population who are seen as enemies. Furthermore, both worlds are constructed upon the idea of dislocation, with the objective of disconnecting its citizens from others. However, in some ways, citizens rebel and demonstrate a will to fight back. They are willing to sacrifice their own lives to escape and see their loved ones. Therefore, while both societies in Stasiland and Never Let Me Go disempower their people by controlling them, there are times where citizens rebel and fight back.

Stasiland and Never Let Me Go suggest that the implementation of an omnipresent surveillance system disempowers citizens. Funder’s depiction of East Germany suggests that there is no privacy or freedom of movement. For example, the fact that East Germans are “stopped by the police and asked to account for themselves” shows they are always on their guard and cannot move about freely. Funder’s use of interviews as well as statistics such as “the Stasi had 97000 employees and an additional 173000 informers” serve to highlight the severity of the control the regime enforces as well as the information about its citizens, “as the Stasi had so much information … that they thought everyone was an enemy, because everyone was under observation.” Funder further highlights the lack of privacy through the inclusion of interviews. The fact that the Stasi intercept Julia’s Italian boyfriend’s letters renders her powerless since she is prevented from studying and finding a job. She is subsequently raped and unable to prosecute her attacker but the “total surveillance damaged her the worst.” Furthermore, Funder demonstrates how the Stasi manage to create a blanket surveillance by encouraging people to betray each other since the regime exploited “the small deep human satisfaction of having one up on someone else.” This idea is echoed in Never Let Me Go, but betrayal operates on a more personal level rather than in the form of reporting people to authorities and creating a systematic betrayal of neighbours, but those who inform on others still have a sense of power. In this novel, the clones are restricted inside Hailsham and have no way of escaping their own fate even if they were to strike out on their own since the whole of society is against them. Therefore, the authorities do not need to worry about rebellion, which is a constant possibility in East Germany. Consequently, the constant surveillance that restricts people operates within friendship groups, since that is all the clones have to support them. Kathy’s open personality is exploited by Ruth and Tommy, and so she feels let down by her closest friends, “talking about her slap on the elbow thing could be seen as a betrayal, and she might well then have felt justified retaliating as she had.” Hence, the children lose their freedom, and are constantly aware that they can be betrayed by their friends at anytime. However, while the German citizens know that they are always being watched, for the clones, their surveillance is not so overt. They are locked into a confined environment where they are being watched by their guardians, so there is never a “good place for a discreet conversation … and the way sound travelled along the water was hard to predict; if people wanted to eavesdrop, it was the easiest thing to walk down the outer path and crouch down in bushes on the other side of the pond.” Another difference between the two texts is the way in which the writers present the surveillance. Here she aims to illustrate the extent to which the Stasi were prepared to go to restrict people’s freedoms, which ultimately bordered on the absurd. and Ishiguro demonstrate the level of intense surveillance in both states, but also the betrayal felt my citizens which can break relationships, thus highlighting the lack of power and voice people have in these two regimes.

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Similarly, the worlds of both Ishiguro and Funder’s texts are dominated by a pervasive sense of dislocation which is set up by the two regimes. The Hailsham donors are depicted as utterly adrift in the world, primarily because they have no parents, and implied by Ruth that they are cloned ‘from trash’. Consequently, they have no feeling of continuity with the past, which partly explains Kathy’s attempt to reconstruct her journey in such vivid detail. Furthermore, the friendship groups developed by the Hailsham students are transitory and broken not only by the donors’ relocation to places with ‘only the most tenuous links’ to their old lives, but also by their impending mandatory duties as carers. Not only does this fragmentation hurt relationships, but the bodies of Kathy and those like her are also destined to be gradually torn into pieces ‘before (they) are even middle-aged.’ Funder’s version of this kind of disorder is more social and abstract, but equally damaging in its own way. The ‘iron curtain’ that divided Germany is reflected by the citizens’ experiences, as Frau Paul describes it, how ‘The Wall Went Straight Through (Her) Heart’. Ishiguro’s donors’ sense from infancy that they are born to be sacrificed for others, however they delude themselves, whereas the ties between East and West Berliners are instantaneously damaged when they ‘woke to a changed world’ one day. In this changed world the Stasi ‘had people everywhere’, and this all assumption of trust and community between people is strained or shattered, and it is impossible to know who was an informer. The fact that Funder’s explores the long-lasting effects of this social and physical rupture suggests the immense repercussions it has produced, as citizens still reminisce on the past. Hence, the societies created by these governments are aimed to disconnect people, as all humans crave belonging and a sense of community, as they both demonstrate the miserable bewilderment suffered by those who lack it.

However, in both texts, citizens have a chance to fight back and rebel, in hope of restoring their dignity and freedom. Funder describes Miriam’s attempt to climb over the treacherous wall, demonstrating courage and resilience and “recover from her experiences with the Stasi.” As a result, she is unable to fulfil her dream, and is ultimately locked in a cell with just “a tiny window of dull frosted glass recessed high up.” Despite the constant rebellion that is shown in Stasiland, in Hailsham, little fight is shown as they await for their completion. Donors rather focus on the recollection of memories, since it is “the only thing that cannot be taken from [them].” Kathy has been stripped of her loves and feels the need to fight against the process of forgetting, reassuring herself with “Hailsham with me, safely in my head, and that I’ll be something no one can take away.” She is particularly alert of the potential unreliability of memory, frequently making comments such as “maybe I’m remembering wrong.” Unlike the recollection of memories displayed in Never Let Me Go, Funder rather looks forward to the capitalist, reunified Germany. She suggests memory is simply a reminiscence of the past, which can have detrimental effects “what it hides and what it alters, but also for what it reveals”. This is reflected in present-day Germany, where artefacts and history of the GDR compile the city, leaving an everlasting nostalgia felt by the people of Germany. Hence, the ordinary citizens of both Stasiland and Never Let Me Go demonstrate some fight to rebel against their fellow regimes in hope of returning to their previous lives.

Overall, the social systems that are equipped in both worlds employ various methods of control to dictate and command its citizens. Funder’s vivid description of the surveillance methods used by the Stasi highlight the dysfunction of the GDR, leaving people with no power nor freedom. Similarly, the control that is set up by Hailsham also forces donors to be secluded from others, with little power to challenge. Therefore, both texts demonstrate the harsh realities that are built by both regimes, leaving citizens powerless and no choice but to accept their fate.


  • I think I need to vary my sentence structure and use more quotes from both texts to support my points
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Social Systems Depending On Disempowering People In Stasiland And Never Let Me Go. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
“Social Systems Depending On Disempowering People In Stasiland And Never Let Me Go.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022,
Social Systems Depending On Disempowering People In Stasiland And Never Let Me Go. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Mar. 2023].
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