The golden cage image (or what is also commonly called a "gilded cage") is one that suggests one lives in luxury but without freedom. Hailsham appears to be a very high quality boarding school in the English countryside. In its early days, the dystopian experiment to raise children who have been cloned for use of their organs attempts at first to determine if these human clones are like other humans. For example, do they have emotions or hopes and dreams? Having Hailsham resemble a normal school allows the government (who is presumably responsible for this practice) to perform a kind of experiment. The school is in a scenic location, the teachers are of high quality, the children receive a good education and nutritious food. But the children, who stay at Hailsham until they are in their late teens, are ignorant of the "real world" and do not travel outside the school grounds. They are also forbidden to go beyond the fenced border. When Tommy goes beyond the fence to retrieve a ball, he is chastised and told frightening stories of what happens to children who go beyond the fence. These stories help reinforce the idea of Hailsham as a safe haven.
Occasionally, the children are allowed to spend tokens they earn for good grades and good behavior on items brought in from the "outside," but most of these items are nothing special (used toys, etc.) Kathy buys a cassette tape with the title song on it, and listening to it arouses emotions that are very human indeed. The music provides a connection to the outside world and allows Kathy to imagine what her life might be like if she were truly free.
The novel has been said to be an allegory for factory farming, but it is also an exploration of the dystopian quality of medical care and the preferential treatment of the wealthy in the healthcare system. The theme of freedom is explored as it pertains to socioeconomic disparity and the oppression of the poor.