Sorry I didn’t get this posted last night. I tried, but I was exhausted, and at the end of the night I decided to trade bloggery for sleep.
The term “post-modern literature” gets tossed around far too frequently, in my opinion. In literary criticism I’ve seen the term applied to any piece of fiction written after World War II until the present, but in my head there are some very important distinctions in post-modern literature. Post-modern writers tend to explore the link between post-nuclear technology and humanity, and more often than not, the outlook for humankind isn’t good.
There’s a very good reason for this proclivity in post-modern writers. After World War II, advancements in technology forced humankind to face the reality that while science might very well answer many of the questions humankind had been in search of for centuries, we might not be very comfortable facing those answers. Nuculear power offered us amazing energy, the likes of which had never been seen before…and simultaneously, it also contained the ability to murder millions of people in the blink of an eye.
We don’t really need religion to provide us answers to life’s questions anymore, but will science save us…or will it eventually be our downfall?
That’s what comes to my mind when I think of post-modernism: science, hopelessness, and eventually solace found in humanism.
And this is where “Never Let Me Go” confuses me. At first I thought it was going to explore the effects of genetic cloning, but it never really got around to doing that. Genetic cloning, instead of serving as a motif or an allegory for the current human condition, ends up simply becoming a plot device. At the end we eventually see Tommy and Kathy struggling with their relationship, but the emotional aspect never really reaches a crescendo like I thought it would. I guess for some people that might seem more true to life, but after all the talk of deferrals and the false hope I wanted to see more raw emotion.
I suppose the reason the story confused was that without even the hint of free will, these characters were never much more than robots. Like Tank noticed, they never even considered receiving a “pardon” for donations, they only held out hope for a “deferral.” Are they programed? Do they have choice at all? It didn’t seem like it, and without that, I can’t relate to them, and therefore, their plight doesn’t offer me anything.
It’s like trying to identify with the robots in Asmiov’s Robot series. Sure, they often make choices that seem more human than human, but deep down we know that the Three Laws precludes free will.
And likewise with the donors and carers of Never Let Me Go. Whether their own mind-forged manacles prevents them from breaking free, or whether they’re genetically-created automatons, I don’t think they’re human. And without that, any chance for a post-modern exploration of science and humanity goes bye-bye.