Journal of Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research

Article Title

The Shame in Privilege


This essay explores the ideas of affect theory, specifically shame, as it is seen in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go (2005). In the novel, shame is presented as being derived from privilege. This essay examines how this shame of privilege is manifested in the three types of characters presented: the Hailsham clones, the non-cloned people, and the reader. In the dystopian society of post-war England, the Hailsham clones are given the privilege of a comfortable and caring childhood. This is in contrast to the normal clones, who spend their childhoods in uncomfortable government homes, treated horrifically. Even though the Hailsham clones are given the opportunity of living comfortably, they are still required to donate their organs to the non-cloned people. It is the non-cloned people who are given the greatest privilege within the society presented in the novel. These people are able to live freely and achieve whatever dreams they may have. These two types of characters, Hailsham clones and non-cloned people, show the shame that comes with unrequested privilege in distinct ways, highlighted throughout this essay. However, the greatest privilege of all goes to the character of the reader, who is purposely placed within the novel by Ishiguro. In this complex space between the world of the novel and the world of the reader, the reader is forced to negotiate his or her own shame. This shame comes from being stretched between two worlds: being unable to help the clones escape their inevitable death and being able to live between and leave the worlds that the reader knows.