"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. " -Helen Keller

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Barren Bitches Book Brigade: Never Let Me Go

Welcome to the seventeenth tour of the Barren Bitches Book Brigade--a book club from the comfort of your own living room. Today we are discussing Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Grab a cup of coffee and a doughnut and, when you're done reading my review, you can hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens. You can also sign up for the next book in this online book club: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

Never Let Me Go is a phenomenal book and should be on everyone's must read list. On the advice of Miss Lollipop, I went into this book with no real knowledge of what it was about. I remember that when I figured out the plot twist I was stunned. The thought of anyone living for that reason was mind blowing. It is definitely a book that makes you think hard about the future and about what you've done with your life so far. If you haven't read the book, GO GET IT (and don't read any further).

One thing that struck me while reading the book is that the characters seem very passive. Although certain knowledge is withheld from them along the way, and they do have questions, they do not really rebel or protest their fate, or try to escape. They seem quite accepting of the future that has been laid out for them. Why do you think this is so? I believe the characters are so extremely passive about their future because they have always lived in a very controlled environment. Every aspect of their lives has been scheduled from day one. Also, although they are given a good education and are encouraged to explore artistically, they are never encouraged to truly think outside the box and show true creativity. They are never encouraged to think and dream about the future. When you are raised with such a narrow view of the world, it can be hard to look beyond it.

If you knew with certainty that you had a child with a shortened life expectancy, would you raise the child any differently? For example, are there certain experiences you'd want to ensure that they had? Are there things that you wouldn't bother to make them do (flossing? eat healthy foods? go to school?) since they wouldn't have the same long-term impact as they would for other children? Would it make a difference in your parenting if you knew exactly at what age the child was expected to die as opposed to a general sense of foreshortened lifespan? I am sure that the absolute knowledge of a shortened life expectancy would at least influence the way I raised a child. I know I would still try an instill a good set of ethics and morals. I would also educate the child. However, I also believe I wouldn't feel the need to stick to the sometimes rigid expectations of society. We would travel more, see more, do more. I wouldn't give on any things that affect health...the child would still have to brush teeth, visit the doctor, take vitamins...because I know I would always be hoping for a miracle of modern science and medicine to save my child's life. If I knew for certain the age my child would die at, I would kowtow even less to the expectations of society and we would live life to its fullest every damn moment.

If you were a student a Hailsham, would you have wanted to know your ultimate destiny as a Donor? Why or why not? How do you think knowing at that point in your life would have affected you? Does this desire to know your outcome apply to your own real life? In what situations do you find knowledge helpful? At what times can it be detrimental? I think I would want to know my destiny as a donor. I think that as a student, the knowledge that my lifespan was limited would encourage me to try things that might otherwise go untested because I would never, ever want to feel I missed out on something life had to offer. But, I think having that knowledge might also cause me to say fuck it about certain things in life...rules, grades, neatness...and those were all things the staff at Hailsham deemed important.
Part of me says I'd like to know the outcome of many things in life. However, knowledge of the future and how things will work out would remove a lot of the wonder and joy that come along with life. In certain situations (like IF), the knowledge of how things will work out (if its positive) will give you the power to continue to perservere and fight through tough times. However, if you knew treatment would never work out, you would quit (quite obviously) and you might miss out on some pretty damned incredible things...like this incredible online community. I think, for the most part, its better to live life without the certain knowledge of our outcome.

6 comments:

Another Dreamer said...

The last question you answered... I totally agree with you. It's sort of a catch 22, isn't it?

loribeth said...

Great answers. I too especially liked your response to the last one! So true!

Annie said...

I agree that for the most part it is better not to know. It reminds me of something I read once, that we are so quick to label events in our lives as good or bad, but then something bad happens as a result of the good thing, or something good happens as a result of the bad thing. He said the lesson was to just accept things for what they are. It just is what it is. Accept it, and keep on moving along. That's a lot easier to say than it is to do though!

Melissa said...

totally agree with your answer to the last question. I also think you made a really great point in answering the first question. Everything was controlled! It seems like every matter was thought about well before hand and the characters were shaped by that control.

Cassandra said...

I enjoyed your unusually (for you, not for me!) high level of profanity in this post. Sounds like you feel passionate about the book and these issues!

Lollipop Goldstein said...

But would knowing that you're going to die at 60 mean something different from dying at 30? I only ask with the third question because I freaked out considering the question. I mean, we are going to die--whether it happens earlier or later. And what would I do differently knowing this? I keep asking myself what I'm missing out on doing that I could grab right now keeping this idea in mind.

This book freaked the crap out of me!