How does Ishiguro present a ‘nightmarish’ society?

            Ishiguro uses a variety of language features and writer’s techniques throughout his tripartite novel to portray a troubled dystopian parallel world, in an attempt to write a parable about mortality and provoke the reader to question what it means to be human, and the society we currently live in.


The writer begins by creating euphemistic terms which shock the reader, such as “completion” which replaces “death”. This creates a feeling that the students (clones) have been de-sensitised to death which evokes a feeling of horror. However Ishiguro could also be using these terms to question to what extent the clone’s lives are any different to our own. The word “passed away” is used as euphemism for death in our own society, and so Ishiguro is simply creating a different version of our world.


            In the novel, Ishiguro also writes about the “recovery centres” that the donors reside in. He evokes a sense of irony, as the donors do not recover; in fact they are in the centres until their death. The reader may consider this idea as ‘nightmarish’, but again Ishiguro simply uses this dystopian regime to provoke thought about care homes in the real world. People, like the clones in the novel, essentially go into the care homes to die, and so through use of depicting a microcosm of the donor society, Ishiguro is raising the question of to what extent our world is any different.


            The students in the novel are educated at the falsely idyllic “Hailsham”, the very name of which has connotations of a worshipped-façade. Ishiguro uses Hailsham as a construct to help portray the clones as having human-like traits, and therefore depicting the organ donation system as even more of a ‘nightmarish’ vision. At the end of the novel, Miss Emily and Madame say “How could people say that you were anything less than fully human”, as Ishiguro tries to convey to the reader the impacts of science moving faster than ethics, and what could happen in society without “having time to ask the sensible questions”. In the 1990’s, the decade in which the novel is set, there was lots of research into stem cells and how they may be used to carry out therapeutic cloning. Through use of a shocking dystopian society, Ishiguro presents the importance of evaluating morality.


            From the outset of the novel, Ishiguro uses the unreliable narrator Kathy to tell his narrative. Kathy is depicted by the writer as an atypical dystopian protagonist, as she, along with her fellow students, is complicit in the donation system. Ishiguro builds up a sense of dramatic irony, as the reader becomes aware of her self deception through inference. She often remarks how she “might be remembering it wrong”, which conveys a sense that she likes to edit her memories to suit her current needs and isolation. The reader is left to question why the students don’t run away or escape, as they seemingly have freedom, however Ishiguro is presenting the idea that as humans, we are all complicit in our own systems, and never stop to question our own impending mortality. We simply live the life that has been set out for us, and it is no different for the clones.


            In Ishiguro’s society, the clones are presented as outsiders, and different from normal people. In the gallery, Kathy remarks “she wouldn’t talk to us if she knew what we were”. Ishiguro’s use of the pronoun “what” objectifies the clones, as if they have no sense of self-worth. However, the idea that the woman cannot tell that they are anything less than real conveys the idea that the clones are in fact human, and should not be treated differently as a result. Ishiguro through Miss Emily writes that “people preferred to believe these organs came from nowhere”, evoking a feeling of guilt, as though the society in the novel know that the donation programme is wrong but choose to ignore it. Again Ishiguro uses the idea of self-deception, with people in society choosing what they “prefer to believe” over what is morally right.


            In conclusion Ishiguro uses a variety of methods to depict his microcosm of Hailsham and the dystopian, ‘nightmarish’ society as being similar in many ways to the society we live in, in order to create a sense of shock for the reader, leaving them to question what it takes to be human and the importance of making the correct ethical decisions.