In the novel Never Let Me Go, do the guardians feel any sympathy for the children? How is lying to someone protecting them?

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The guardians in Never Let Me Go are not all the same and have different attitudes to the clones in their care. Miss Lucy is obviously the most sympathetic of them and her sympathy leads her to be honest and tell her charges that their organs will be harvested and...

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The guardians in Never Let Me Go are not all the same and have different attitudes to the clones in their care. Miss Lucy is obviously the most sympathetic of them and her sympathy leads her to be honest and tell her charges that their organs will be harvested and they will die young. She is dismissed for this honesty and the clones do nothing to help her, a fate which may well discourage others who might have been considering a similar course.

Adults frequently lie to children to protect them, but the relationship between the guardians and the clones at Hailsham is not precisely that of teachers and students. The clones are there for the benefit of society, and while the more humane guardians may want to do the best they can for them within the constraints of this dystopian society, they are ultimately there to die so that others can live. This means that the guardians are actually more like farmers looking after animals that will one day be killed.

There are brutal farmers who abuse their livestock and there are humane farmers who try to make the lives of the animals as comfortable as possible. There may even be farmers who love their animals, treat them as pets, and cry when they go to slaughter. There are, however, no farmers who treat their animals exactly as they would treat people. The society in the novel does not treat clones as people and all the guardians acquiesce in this.

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The underlying issue in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel is the status of the clones—are they human beings with the same rights as their originals? The society in which they all exist has apparently decided “No”: the clones are not considered fully human and do not have rights. The many rules and regulations concerning their living arrangements and education before the clones are fully grown have been developed based on that set of beliefs.

While some of the Halsham staff and teachers would like to ease the young clones’ way, none of them seems to contest their fate to be organ donors and then die. The guardians' attitude could be sympathy, as they try to feel something for those whose experience is alien to their own. The idea of protecting the children by withholding information from them may have developed to benefit the clones but is more likely aims to assuage the guilty consciences of those who are complicit in this society-wide annihilation of an entire group.

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For one, consider that the faculty and staff at Hailsham are asking the same question you are: What should the children know? What's ethical for them to know? What's right? You might look specifically at how Miss Lucy and Miss Emily's approaches differ and how they speak with the children and reveal (or don't reveal) the truth.

A central theme to Never Let Me Go is identity -- what makes a human being a person, an individual? What is a soul and what nourishes a soul? And what happens in a world where the society has literally created people who aren't recognized as individuals with autonomy and agency? Kathy, Tommy, and the others are nurtured as children for a very specific purpose; they are valued because their bodies ensure prolonging the lives of their copies. How is this social structure ethical? How is it moral? Remember, though, that ethics and morality are subjective, so such conversations are always complex. You mention the lies and deceit, and you're right: there's a lot of it in this novel. However, is it better that the children know or not know what waits for them from the beginning? Lying is, in one way, a kindness, giving them hope for the future and the same sense of self any other child might have. If they were told the truth from day one, could children cope with the knowledge that they're simply "spare parts"? How would that impact their development? Is it better or worse that they know personhood before becoming part of the system? Is it better to rebel against the system or to accept fate?

Ishiguro uses his narrative to provoke such questions from his readers. So, you're on the right track here. To go even deeper, you might ask what similarities you see between Kathy's world and ours and what that suggests about what Ishiguro wants readers to take away from the story.

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