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What literary theories are used in Never Let Me Go?

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Never Let Me Go explores prominent ideas in postmodern literature and philosophy by examining ambiguous questions of existence and how those with power in society depend upon the complacency of those without it. In particular, postmodern theorist Michel Foucault’s ideas regarding the rise of engrained, often unforeseen, human-made systems of oppression apply to many of the themes in this novel.

In Never Let Me Go, systems of domination significantly dictate how the characters live their lives. What stands out about this novel is the how complacent the clones are with the terribly bleak reality that aggressively faces each of them. Rather than rebelling against the system or defending the worth of their existence as humans with souls, the clones conditionally sacrifice their organs and their lives to maintain society’s supposedly efficient, yet ethically dubious, system of organ recycling.

Exploiting methods of bodily deterioration exhibits the impact of what Michel Foucault terms “techniques of domination” which he believes “permit individuals to effect, by their own means, a certain number of operations on their own bodies, on their own souls, on their own thoughts, on their own conduct, and this in a manner so as to transform themselves, modify themselves, and to attain a certain state of perfection, of happiness, of purity, of supernatural power” (Foucault 203). Through casting clones in the position of complying with their role as expendable organ donors, Ishiguro’s fictional world in Never Let Me Go exemplifies how these “techniques of domination” are implemented in society.

In Never Let Me Go, the harsh realities of cloning in a dystopian environment exemplify the ways that societal power structures dictate individual autonomy. Both Ishiguro and Foucault address postmodern theories regarding social conditioning and the nature of existence, especially by depicting how humans create systems to morally justify feeding on the less powerful for survival.

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