Miss Lucy’s Christian Perspective about Humanity as It Regards
Human Dignity, Genuine Compassion and Child Education
In the novel Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro’s Miss Lucy serves as a foil to Miss Emily because she feels that it is unjust to deceive or shelter cloned organ donors from the realities behind their experimental boarding school education. Unlike Miss Emily, Miss Lucy trusted her own feelings and emotions of love and respect while Miss Emily was equally determined to deny her emotions for Hailsham clone orphans. Miss Lucy’s values and spirituality contrasts directly with Miss Emily’s seemingly rational justifications to artificially create and domesticate some humans explicitly for the medical benefits of their genetic cell donors.
Ishiguro develops both characters by periodically including bits of narration and dialogue in progressing chapters to slowly reveal the truths which most Hailsham guardians hide and distort to manipulate their students. For example, in chapter 6 when Marge asked Miss Lucy a question about smoking cigarettes Miss Lucy replied honestly that is was not good that she had smoked. Miss Lucy replied, “It wasn’t good for me so I stopped it. But what you must understand is that for you, all of you, it’s much, much worse to smoke than it ever was for me” (Ishiguro, 68). Miss Lucy clarifies that clones have different expectations for maintaining their health because their organs will need to be used for transplants. Another example of Miss Lucy’s transparency in Chapter 6 is when she allows her students to compare themselves to WWII prisoners in camps which were surrounded by electrical fences. Miss Lucy, quite unlike other guardians, expressed her sincere concerns about “accidents” or suicides provoked by student emotional distress. Ishiguro weaves his novel carefully to gradually reveal how the long-term effects of emotional oppression and physio–racial discrimination damage what would be normally loving relationships among clone students. He assigns Miss Lucy specific viewpoints primarily as they relate to student’s questions and reveals that Miss Lucy’s opinions could easily reflect artificial creation underground resistance. For example, Ishiguro reveals Miss Lucy’s leaving Hailsham in Chapter 9 without telling us why. Only later in Chapter 22 when Tommy interviews a retired Miss Emily (Ishiguro, 267) do the readers discover the truth about Madame’s art gallery. In other words, Miss Lucy’s role in the plot development was specifically to give readers hopeful clues about which Hailsham myths were rational or irrational. Student created myths appeared true or false to the students as they matured socially and emotionally. Unlike other guardians who simply calmed student rebellions with manipulative lies, Miss Lucy cultivated student curiosity and questions for example on page 40, Miss Lucy answers Polly’s questions about the need for rules at Hailsham without any offense by saying “All I can tell you today is that it’s for a good reason. A very important reason. But if I tried to explain it to you now, I don’t think you’d understand. One day, I hope, it’ll be explained to you” (Ishiguro, 40). Miss Lucy refuses to treat curious students with rejection.
Although Ishiguro never reveals Miss Lucy’s religion, readers could infer that she was Christian, pro-life and did not have a donor clone. For example, while discussing possible donation deferral for couples in love, Tommy and Kathy mentioned that Miss Emily had mistakenly confessed to Roy that she believed that art and creativity reveal the inner human soul (Ishiguro, 175). This is obviously the reason Miss Lucy apologized to Tommy by saying “Listen, Tommy, your art, it is important. And not just because it's evidence but for your own sake. You'll get a lot from it, just for yourself” (Ishiguro, 108). The therapeutic values of art were as valuable intrinsically as extrinsically to Miss Lucy. Unlike Miss Emily, Miss Lucy inspired the children to document their perfectly human emotions, expressions and dreams even though the children often suspected that their donors had been junkies, prostitutes, tramps and convicts. For example, as the children matured and their jokes about donations faded, they slowly realized that all the guardians did not feel the same about them anymore. For example, even though the children often modeled adult behaviors that they learned from television about careers, society and families, Miss Lucy “was the only teacher to explain how before donations clones would spend some time working during the first donations” (Ishiguro, 82). While Miss Emily frightened the children about sexual transmitted diseases associated with “umbrella sex”, one-nighters and pregnancies, Miss Lucy encouraged Tommy to investigate Chrissie and Rodney’s stories about the gallery and deferrals. As a result, Ishiguro further develops the plot and magically suspends the reasons why and how one loving clone couple might be spared.
An engaged reader would begin to wonder why clones might not elope, find others to rescue them or even marry and reproduce among other humans. The social implications of artificial creation of life along with slavery, bondage and sacrifice present complex problems upon which readers must reflect to understand the writers purpose. The passages with Miss Lucy’s dialogue are very revealing about her resentments. She rejects the idea that the clones be taught to believe that their sacrifice and heroism are required because they simply have no legitimacy. For example, Miss Lucy understood and communicated to Hailsham students that suicide may seem like the ultimate revenge but she also felt that the children could still form lasting emotional bonds with one another as well as enjoy shared childhood memories. In the Catholic tradition human suicide is a mortal sin and those who intentionally completed clones would also be murderers. Thus, it is as logical as it is practical to induce that Miss Lucy believed in Christ.
The most significant quality that Miss Lucy modeled was her respect for her students intellectual, creative and emotional achievements even though they would never be permitted to practice freedom of religion, of speech or of consciousness. Miss Lucy was a key character in shaping student friendships that might prove to be more lasting and more rewarding than those that were shared among their donors or even among privileged organ transplant recipients. The moral issues regarding the rights to satisfactory standards of living in exchange for body tribute is key in Never Let Me Go. However, in most societies beliefs about death are as complex as they are spiritually and emotionally rooted in faiths. The anthropological supposition that clones are less worthy of human rights and freedoms of consciousness are primarily contested by Miss Lucy and a few mature Hailsham students. Ishiguro does not give viewpoints of doctors, relatives of the donors or of any children born to clones. Readers are limited to a Hailsham microcosm. One might ask why didn’t Miss Lucy try to save the children from completion? What punishment would society reserve for those who kidnap, traffic or rescue clones “illegally”? On page 260 Marie Claude revealed that Hailsham had confiscated art to prove that clones “had no souls at all” (Ishiguro, 260) so that defection would never become a right. Yet the quotes about Miss Lucy proved her anger and resentment towards her superiors for treating the children like experimental commodities. For example, Miss Lucy while writing student reports would scrawl heavily, frown, sulk and shake nervously. Yet as stated on page 40, “she rarely got crossed with her students for breaking rules for asking forbidden questions” (Ishiguro, 40). Miss Lucy engaged the kids to teach them to argue assertively for their rights which gives readers the impression that she wanted to affirm clone’s human rights. Mysteriously some of the private conversations that Miss Lucy shared with Tommy (at age 16) without Kathy’s presence are suggestive that the two shared many open conversations. On page 94 for example Kathy mentions Ruth and Tommy’s break up as well as “Tommy’s recent moods having something to do with Miss Lucy and his old problems about being creative” (Ishiguro, 94). An astute reader might infer that Miss Lucy had given Tommy some common-sense advice about the differences between clones and normals regarding sex and child birth. Ishiguro wrote, “Anette B had a theory that the guardians were so uncomfortable about the clones having sex with each other because then they would want to have sex with them too” (Ishiguro, 97). Although suggesting incest would be extreme, the novel’s plot subtly reveals that perhaps Miss Lucy was the only Christian guardian to fearlessly share honest and realistic advice to young adolescences expressing authentic human love.
In conclusion, the larger majority of career centers, hospitals and schools in Never Let Me Go were directly involved in murder and euthanasia. These crimes seem ever more sinful to many Catholics than abortions. Miss Lucy was the one adult teacher who stood up for the Hailsham students because she believed they were humans who deserved humane education and legitimacy. In contrast to the plot of The Handmaid’s Tale, in which young women were coerced to procreate, in Never Let Me Go, both young men and women unjustly became human sacrifice tributes to society but not to God.