Meaning of Life in Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Topics: Behavior

Since the dawn of mankind, humans have been pursuing an answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go does not explicitly try to answer this question, but the reader can’t help but ponder if the clones shown in the novel do strive to solve this dilemma The “normal“ people shown in Never Let Me Co are of the impression that the clones lead empty, meaningless, and insignificant lives, However, from the clones point of View, they are hardly different from the normals, so why would their lives he so insignificant? The clones in Never Let Me Go live full lives due to their emotions, resilience, and creativity People often project emotions onto their pets, saying “Oh, Socks looks so sad!” or “Oh, Oreo is feeling so happy, look at his tail wag!” However, no pet could ever feel the scope of emotions that a human feels.

How, then, does it make sense for the normal humans of Never Let Me Go to belittle the clones of Hailsham, treating them as pets, only taking care of them to gain a personal benefit? The Hailsham students show their wide, human, range of emotions in situations such as Tommy’s outbursts, and Kathy and Tommy’s love for each other.

Tommy’s outbursts happen at the bookends of his and Kathy’s relationship: when they are first becoming close at Hailsham and when their all too short relationship is almost over Kathy and her friends see Tommy “raving, flinging his limbs about, at the sky, at the wind, at the nearest fence post” (Ishiguro 10) after he doesn’t get picked for a soccer team early in the novel.

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Although Tommy soon learns to contain these raw outbursts of emotion, when he first has them the only way he can deal with them is by physically freaking out It seems daft to suggest that a being who wasn‘t truly living a human life, a being without a soul, could experience emotions this strong and vivid.

These outbursts of anger follow Tommy until after his and Kathy’s visit with Madame, when Kathy spots “Tommy’s figure, raging, shouting, flinging his fists and kicking out” Tommy is a young adult at this point in the story, and it’s uncommon to see a young adult react so Viscerally and with such emotion, Yet, Tommy is moved so greatly by what he’s just learned that he has to release these raw emotions inside of him. This capacity for emotion shows that Tommy isn’t all that different from the normals that criticize him and his kind. Tommy and Kathy also show their capacity for emotion when going to Madame for their deferral, showing they are truly in love. Kathy and Tommy are obsessed with the idea that their art that Madame collects will show their souls, and show if two people really are in love. They put great effort into selecting Tommy’s drawings to take to Madame, and continually assure Madame that “[they] would never have come and bothered you if [they] weren’t really sure.”

Love is perhaps the most human of all emotions, and is particularly hard to describe. The meaning of love seems to differ from person to person; and yet these clones, these sub-par humans, are able to feel love. One often puts the well-being of those they love at the same level or even above their own sense of self preservation and self improvement, a selfless act if there ever was one, And yet here are two “inhuman” beings, claiming they are “Deeply in love” (252). This feeling of love, this deep caring for a person other than oneself gives the clones lives a clear sense of purpose and depth, the exact opposite of this emptiness that is claimed of them. Their emotional capacity also allows the clones to show their fullness of life in another way: through their resilience despite all the obstacles in their way.

The Hailsham students live an easy enough life as children, after all they do come from a “privileged estate.” (4) However, once they “graduate” from Hailsham and are sent as far into the “real world” as they ever will be, challenges present themselves. They are forced to see their friends leave to do their donations, become carers to donors, and then eventually donate their own organsr They are plagued with fears, worries that they “won’t make it past [their] second [donation]” (227) Yet, despite all of these factors working against the clones, they go on to complete their purpose of donation They do this without much resistance, which shows their incredible bravery, They find depth and fullness in their lives by completing their purpose: to donate their organs.

If you were to tell most people that their life would be over before they were 30, they would not be very happy about it And yet, the Hailsham students push on, without mental breakdowns or freak outs. They realize that their purpose is to donate, so donate is what they shall do, Even after Tommy and Kathy’s dreams of a deferral are shot down by Madame, they push on, Even after Kathy loses everyone she loved, she pushes on. After Kathy hears of Tommy’s completion, she heads out to Norfolk for the day, as a final indulgence for herself When stopping on the side of the road and thinking about Tommy, she shows her sadness, but does eventually “[turn] back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was [she] was supposed to be”

The students of Hailsham show incredible resilience, and their willingness to walk on and complete the task they were created for shows that they do truly have significant lives The significance of the clones lives is also shown through the artwork that they are tasked with creating at Hailshami Early on in Never Let Me Go the Hailsham students are seen doing artwork. This artwork is seen to be very important in their lives, and it is the focus of lots of their energy This artwork is not only significant in their lives, however, it is significant piece of evidence that shows the Hailsham students live full and important lives. Tommy and Kathy wonder about the importance of their artwork early in the novel, as do Kathy and Ruth, Kathy quickly realizes that it must have to do with how “one day [the clones] will start giving donations” (31), but it isn’t until much later in the novel that she realizes how true this is Miss Lucy reveals that the Gallery’s purpose was to “prove [the clones] had souls at all”.

This mission to prove the clones had souls also works to prove that the clones lead full livest Artwork is something that is created to entice an emotional response, and to get the observer to think. Writing allows the clones to express their feelings through words, and similarly, painting allows the students to express their feelings as stories without words, It exists to express a message, through whatever medium is chosen. The great emphasis put on artwork by Hailsham is no coincidence. Those who ran Hailsham understand that the clones are normal human beings, and artwork is a way to convey that message. Creativity is an innately human trait, something that can not be copied by any other animal or machine. By getting the Hailsham students to showcase their creativity in painting, sculpture, and writing, Hailsham is getting students to express their humanity through these mediums.

The fact that the students have the ability to explore their minds and creatively showcase their innermost thoughts points directly towards their fullness of life. Their ability to dive into their minds and express what is inside in a physical medium shows that they are indeed as human as the rest of us For that reason, they are also as significant as any other human, and therefore lead lives just as full as any other human. Through their emotion, resilience, and creativity, the Hailsham students repeatedly show that they lead full lives. Although their lives are not long> they are still as packed with living as any other human’s life is, The thought that the clones are not human simply because their genes are not a product of meiosis and combination of gametes is daft, and hangs on a technicality. Similarly, the thought that their lives simply could not be full because they are so short is also a strange thought to have A short life is not necessarily an unimportant one, and it begs the question; are the Hailsham students perhaps living more important lives than our own?

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Meaning of Life in Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. (2022, Dec 13). Retrieved from

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