Empathy In Never Let Me Go

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Ishiguro’s critique of empathetic engagement in relation to a humanising education modulates into questioning the concept of empathy itself. In Never Let Me Go, the aporia presented in the clones’ understanding of their role in the world in comparison to the authorities ultimately frustrates opportunities for empathy. Madame’s witnessing of the young Kathy dancing with a pillow to the Judy Bridgewater song, Never Let Me Go, has been interpreted by Marvin Mirsky as providing a ‘replica’ of a baby, which is both a compensation for her own motherless state and her future infertility (2006. pp. 628-30). Madame’s empathy for Kathy is seen in Kathy’s realisation that Madame is watching the scene “...and the odd thing was she was crying. It might…show more content…
4, emphasis mine) and her insistence on "feeling for my donors every step of the way" (Never, p. 4). Kathy's admission opens up a fundamental tension regarding what it means to homogenise people and actively select who to empathise with based on personal bias. The donation programme thus reflects Kathy’s own attitude and preferences. Yet crucially, selective empathy, this tendency to choose when and who we are empathetic towards, is a universal facet of empathy and provides a useful framework for understanding how other marginalised minorities that lie beyond Ishiguro’s novel –migrant workers, the disabled and the poor – are failed by supposedly protectionist government. Much like Bruce Robbins' critique of the Welfare State , Kathy's humanising education at Hailsham has placed her in what Mark Currie calls "the paradox of privileged deprivation" (2013, p. 158) that partially explains her passive…show more content…
185). Kathy has empathy with the animals, suggesting that “For all their busy, metallic features, there was something sweet and vulnerable about each of them” (Never, p. 185, 2005). The animals are thus represented as vulnerable figures of liminality, with their hybridity expressed in the fact that they are neither the archetypal image of a domestic pet, nor a robotic automaton, but an unsettling combination of the two. Ishiguro therefore fuses art and the bio-technic, with Kathy’s empathetic feelings towards Tommy’s creations suggesting that empathy should be applied as unreservedly to the inhuman. Therefore, Ishiguro uses the figures of the animals to indicate the paradoxically artificial nature of art, gesturing towards the limitations that we impose on creativity by associating art and empathy solely with the category of the ‘human.’ As H.G. Wells’ The Ireland of Doctor Moreau proposes, why is it acceptable to “burn out all the animal” (Wells, 1896, p. 59) – to subjugate the other, for the benefit of the human – but not to subject those we label human to the same treatment? As recent eco-criticism has charged, this appears to be related to the connection between scientific advancement and “the domination and expropriation of nature” (Birke, 1994, p. 134). In Ishiguro’s
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