Each of these novels centre around a female character whohas been placed in challenging circumstances which are heavily affected by her surroundings.For Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Goit is Kathy and her sheltered existence at what is apparently a privateboarding school called “Hailsham”, while for Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea it is Antoinette and her isolation in thenewly-liberated Jamaica. Both of these women face problems which are eithercaused by or reflected through their location- something which can be seen asparticularly microcosmic for the world outside of their localised experience.
InNever Let Me Go, Kathy (the protagonist) tends to restrain her emotions,frequently assuming the role of the quiet observer, but the reader also seesher more extroverted side through her thought processes. This is shown inchapter two when Kathy meets Tommy on the stairs: “I felt like saying: Tommy,why don’t you grow up? But I stopped myself and said instead: Tommy you’reholding everyone up.” This could potentially be alluding to suffragettebehaviour through the stereotype of women appearing quiet and devoid ofsubstance, but actually being determined and emotionally intelligent- just asKathy is underneath her silent exterior.
The schoolis called “Hailsham.” Which is, coincidentally or otherwise, the name of avery prominent mid-century law lord in England, suggesting that Ishiguro meantto invoke the weight of judicial authority.These two novels represent gender roles in very differentways through their circumstances and time periods. In Never Let Me Go,the students from Hailsham appear to internalise gender roles in an attempt tofeel connected to the outside world from which they have been so far removed.However, this only occurs once they are staying in the cottages and realisethat their upbringing has not been ‘normal’.
In the school itself however,there are largely only female teachers, meaning that all the clones have grownup seeing women in positions of power. This allows them to have a childhoodlargely devoid of society’s different roles for boys and girls, because thewomen in their lives give the girls no reason to doubt themselves with anysexist ideologies. Alternatively, it also shows a childcare facility cared for almostentirely by women, thus adhering to the natural gender expectation that womenare maternal carers, highlighted by the way the clones refer to their teachersas “guardians”.However, the teachers all treat everyone the same, regardless- for the mostpart- of gender.
As an example of this, we are shown that Kathy has a high sexdrive. While she is at school she is taught that all her desires are natural, mentioningthat they’re even encouragedto engage in healthy sex (which isn’t a problem because the clonescannot reproduce: “none of us can have babies”). This contrasts to the outsideworld due to how women are usually put under more pressure in society to stay’pure’ while men have more sexual freedom- but this is not the case at Hailsham.It is only when they move to the cottages and the clones are influenced by theoutside world through television and porn magazines that Ruth begins to makeKathy feel ashamed for having sex, simply because she wants to fit in: “Isuppose you haven’t been that slow making friends with at least someof the veterans”. This shows the entrapment of the female characters because itpresents the way Ruth and Kathy are becoming familiar with the uncomfortablerealties of the world outside of their sheltered youth as a bad thing, causingmuch more harm than good, such as the many arguments between the two girls. Aswell as this, the ease with which Ruth adopts these new behaviours shows howconditioned the clones are to conform to social pressures; they aren’tencouraged to have different sexual standards for men and women up until now,but they do it almost automatically because they are so used to conforming thatit’s the only way they know how to act around each other.In Wide Sargasso SeaAntoinette’s entrapment is referenced ironically even before the novel hasbegun; the title itself includes the adjective “wide”- a word which carriesconnotations of separation, distance, and loneliness. This foreshadows thecontinuation of the theme throughout the novel because of how it appears in thetitle of the book.
As well as “sea”, perhaps implying isolation and anestrangement from people. TheSargasso Sea is an area located in the Atlantic Ocean which is well-known forbeing saturated with a thick type of seaweed called Sargassum1 whichhas accumulated a reputation for being a particularly dangerous spot for shipsto pass through, as well as the lack of strong winds leading to many strandedships in the days before motorised engines. This therefore adds to thesense of hopelessness and despair created by the brutal combination of “wide”and “sea”. Alternatively, this can be interpreted as independence; the novel isset primarily in Jamaica just after the emancipation act of 1833 has beenpassed, freeing all the slaves from plantation work.2 In Ishiguro’s NeverLet Me Go however, thereader is given a false sense of security from the title; the wording implies asense of intimate care or the idea of having as strong relationship withsomeone, asking them to ‘never let go’.
This sets the story up to be one ofperhaps a tragic kind of love. However, it becomes apparent in the firstchapter that there is a sinister sense of being trapped woven into thechildren’s lives: “the pavilion had become the place to hide out…when youwanted to get away from Hailsham”. The children, at what seems to be a boardingschool, are so trapped that they aren’t allowed to leave the site- their only’escape’ is the `pavilion- still on the school grounds. This induces anuncomfortable feeling within the reader very early in the novel, leaving thepossibility open that there is really nothing wrong with the school other thansome friendship troubles between the children themselves. Rachel Cusk says that”Never Let Me Go, like the characters it portrays, has in the and something ofa double nature, for it both attracts and annihilates”.3 This holdsrelevance here because the children are shown to feel safe in the school (“itwas a way to unwind for a while with your closest friends”) thus showing itsability to attract, but it is also shown to ‘annihilate’ in the way that theychildren are so clearly desperate for some relief from the intensity of theirschool environment.However, the entrapment of the clones is more psychologicalthan physical; they are eventually allowed to venture into the town aroundtheir home and to mingle with ‘normal’ people, so theoretically it would bepossible for them to run away. However, the thought to do such a thing simplynever occurs to them.
They have been brought up not to question theirsituation, living in acceptance of the life that has been set out for them.They are deliberately kept separate from the rest of society, attending onlyspecial school such as hailsham, being sent to communal living spaces like thecottages, and only being allowed to do jobs that do not require them toparticipate in society. This isolation keeps them helplessly dependent on thesystem, discouraging them from questioning the donation process entirely- theyhave never known any other way of life, so therefore cannot demand better.
Whenever the system’s morality is questioned it is considered as a fantasy- notas an uprising for their own freedom. This suggests that they are unaware oftheir own autonomy.Similarly, Antoinettecouldn’t have a conscious rebellion in Wide Sargasso Sea because she hadno identity of her own, thus potentially being the true cause of her eventualinsanity. She inherited the status of her mother and then became dependent upona man who didn’t love her, losing herself in the process. If Antoinette hadembraced her ‘otherness’- specifically her non-whiteness that she identifiedwith more- she would have had a stronger foundation of support and identity tobuild on, but instead she ‘bought’ into the idea of white superiority and ifcost her everything in the end.
Antoinette’s inability to develop an identity,to choose a side, is why she’s lost. Even when she is talking to Christophineand asking for her help with Obeah she thinks that Christophine is inferior, whichcould potentially reflect the way she sees herself on some level. YET TO INCLUDE/ DEVELOP:Unreliable narration (due to the entrapment- perhaps thesetting includes the reader? Is her unreliable speech an extension of hersuspicious nature, now including the reader?)· Antoinette has been raiseda certain way- her mind is wired to reach questionable conclusions even if shefeels like she’s doing the right thing· Her mother’s instability· Her disabled brother’stragic death· Her increased sense ofparanoia and the bitter disappointment of her failing marriage unbalance hralready precarious mental and emotional state· Part 3- she is renamed byher husband as “bertha” and largely confined to the attic of Thornfield hall –the great house. · Grace- the servant who hasto keep her guarded – as well as guarding her disintegrating life with mr.Rochester.· Rochester makes emptypromises to see her more, but eventually starts relationships with other women-eventually the young governess jane eyre.
· Part three the book islargely a stream of consciousness from Antoinette’s point of view Kathy and the song- “What I’d imagine was a woman who’dbeen so she couldn’t have babies, who’d really, really wanted them her wholelife. Then there’s a sort of miracle and she has a baby, and she holds thisbaby very close to her and walks around singing: “Baby, never let mego…” partly because she’s so happy, but also because she’s so afraidsomething will happen” Bibliography 1 OceanService, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administation website, https://oceeanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sargassosea.html,10/10/172The National Archives, The Emancipation Act3 Rachel Cusk, The Guardian, January 2011