"Back in the Shadows": Passivity and Working-Class Injustices in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go




Hecker, Madeline

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This essay explores humanity’s passivity towards injustice within the context of modern labor in Ishiguro’s 2005 novel, Never Let Me Go. It also analyzes the dignity of human life as it relates to the working class and the willingness of others to minimize and ignore struggle. Secondary material includes Louis Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” (1971), Anthony Giddens’s “Power, the Dialectic of Control and Class Structuration” (1982), Roberto del Valle Alcala’s “Servile Life: Subjectivity, Biopolitics, and the Labor of the Dividual in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go” (2019), Lisa Fluet’s “Immaterial Labors: Ishiguro, Class, and Affect” (2007), and Marissa Martin’s “Boundaries and Biopolitics: The Construction of Bare Life in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go” (2021). One problem this essay addresses is predeterminism and the inability to improve upon one’s current situation. The clones in Never Let Me Go were created to follow a set path of becoming carers, donors, then completing. This physical and emotional labor is inescapable for them, yet outsiders minimize their situation and view them as subhuman to make reality easier to accept. Although a work of dystopian fiction, the lack of agency and enslavement to labor that the clones experience aligns to the real world. Through a close analysis of Ishiguro and the secondary materials, the essay achieves a clearer understanding of modern labor in society. Working-class literature is quite difficult to define, so the overarching question of the essay is, “What constitutes this genre?” Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go speaks to the struggle of the working class in a unique way while highlighting how capitalism trains children to believe the system they live in is normal and acceptable. This essay situates Ishiguro as a working-class writer and expands the confines of the genre.



injustices, labor, Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro, Kazuo, society


Hecker, M. G. (2022). "Back in the shadows": Passivity and working-class injustices in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Poster presented at the International Research Conference for Graduate Students, San Marcos, Texas.


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