Student Question

How does Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro portray capitalistic economies?

Quick answer:

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go focuses on characters who have been relegated to an inferior class due to the demands of a capitalist economy. Throughout the novel, he demonstrates how this economy robs them of their passion and creativity, and ultimately, their lives.

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The defining feature of capitalism is that the factors of production are owned by private entities as opposed to the government. Capitalism encourages greed and self-interest. It incentives its citizens to pursue wealth and success, even at the expense of others. Proponents of capitalism believe that this will lead to economic efficiency. By letting individual businesses compete amongst each other, the most effective will theoretically win out. Dissidents of capitalism, however, argue that it inherently causes drastic inequality and can lead to inhumane treatment of those not deemed "necessary" to the success of the system.

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go serves to highlight the negative aspects of a capitalist economy. The subjects of his story are human clones raised in a special school and isolated from the outside world. They are bred to provide replacement organs for non-clone citizens; after donating three to four of their organs, the clones die.

This cloning program serves as a textbook example of a late capitalist outcome. Although the breeding system is doubtlessly effective, and has prolonged the lifespan and productivity of ordinary citizens, it has also created a massive underclass who must suffer unspeakable cruelties in service of this efficiency.

Ishiguro also emphasizes how art and creativity are viewed as dispensable resources in a capitalist economy. The clones in his story spend much of their time in school creating works of art. They hope that if they fall in love and create beautiful art, they might be able to receive a "deferral" from organ donation. At the end of the novel, however, the clones learn that deferrals don't exist. The art was simply a passion project for one of their teachers, who was attempting to convince the outside world that the clones had souls. Although the idea had been popular at the time, by the end of the novel the public interest in the project has faded; the entire school has been shut down. This storyline demonstrates how capitalist societies discredit the pursuit of anything not directly related to improving the efficiency of the economy.

A capitalist economy is the very reason why the central characters in Never Let Me Go even exist; with gut-wrenching detail, Ishiguro demonstrates for the reader how capitalism also leads to their demise.

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