I’ve been batting around the idea of including a blog feature, but haven’t been sure of what to post. Recently, however, I’ve begun work on a paper that I’ve been thinking about since its original assignment in the fall of 2011. It is on time, or our conceptions of it, and language – how our use of language betrays the way we think about things, and how articulating alternatives when writing about time might help us change the way we think about it. I will be focusing on narrative for the paper, specifically on a text that was assigned for the class, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.
I have decide to go ahead and post selected excerpts of my close-ish reading of it, as I (re-)read it. They’re my initial reflections, and might very well amount to Google Doc fodder, but I think they’re at least interesting. It might be fun to read along with them, or it might not. I also encourage and enjoy feedback and insight, so if you think of anything, be sure to send it my way. Also note that I’ve already read the book once, a year and a half ago, so my observations and thoughts are not immediate or truly “initial.”
Also also: No, I have not seen the movie. I’ll probably watch it once I’ve finished the book.
The act of remembering is an ethical act, but it isn’t universal. For Kathy H., whose class position is ostensibly higher than many of those whom she cares for (as evinced by the special place of Hailsham students), the method of self-care that she eventually utilizes is a “giving in” to remembering her past, her childhood, and its relative pleasantness. This remembering and desiring of the past drives many of her thoughts and even actions at times, even though the latter are muted, seldom acted on and apparently get her nowhere – she always returns to her task at hand.
But the act of remembering is not the same for someone from a lower class, whose method of self-care requires or demands a forgetting or ignoring of his or her past – that past is painful. Kathy’s method of care to a lower-class “donor” is therefore to tell him stories of her past, stories from which he, as he lies dying, derives joy or relief from the pain of his past and present.
It is ethical because we have to ask the question is it best to remember or forget? The end of remembering or forgetting is self care – dealing with pain, making one’s own life bearable. This suggests that remembering someone else’s memories is not an ethical practice.
(Maybe I’m) Remembering It Wrong
There is an instant, in the telling of the first reminiscence of her time at Hailsham, when she is reflecting on an instance in which her and her group of female friends observed a group of the the boys as they humiliated another character from afar. She initially states that the group of girls did not “relish” the idea of seeing the spectacle unfold, but were simply “vaguely curious.” She then stops herself: But maybe I’m remembering it wrong, says the text. Perhaps, she thinks, “even then” she felt a stab of pain, something like empathy.
This “speaks to” the ethicality of remembering: if it is possible to do it wrong, then it must be possible to do it right, or correctly. The use of the word wrong seems to suggest the terms in the traditionally ethical sense, the way killing someone is wrong, as opposed to the usual meaning: to remember right is to remember accurately. Either way has an ethical dimension, especially if we remember the question above: is it better to remember or forget? And remember what? Now we have remember how. If there is an ethical imperative to remember (that isn’t transcendental), then there is a reason, there is an end – a why. How should one remember and why? I think the idea is that if she remembers “right,” or accurately, then she will be able to understand herself better, to (figuratively) move forward. But the slippage itself has already revealed something important: it has revealed, or reminded her that something like growth has occurred. She suggests, by the very pause (nick of time?), and the use of the word still, that some change has occurred in her. She now has a historiography: she was once detached, and now is not. Is this right though? Is she remembering right?