For today’s post I was planning on discussing a few of my favorite sci-fi movies that begin with the letter “I” (Inception, Independence Day, I Am Legend . . .). However, when I was doing my research I came across something else I couldn’t resist writing about, so instead I’m going to be talking about two of my favorite pieces of science fiction:
Never Let Me Go is the 2005 novel written by Kazuo Ishiguro. The three protagonists of the novel are friends – Tommy, Ruth and Kathy – raised together at Hailsham Boarding School in England. They’re also clones. All the children at Hailsham are, created and raised as organ donors for non-clones, or originals.
The most interesting thing about the novel is the attitude toward these human replications. For the most part they’re considered soulless beings whose only purpose in life is to provide for originals. The clones themselves merely accept their fate, knowing that after leaving school they will make several donations before eventually “completing” (aka. dying). They never rebel against their hopeless situation or impending fate. The only form of protest comes from the boarding school itself. Spoilers: The reader discovers that Hailsham was built as an experiment in order to study their genetically duplicated pupils with the intention of determining whether clones do (against popular opinion) have souls.
Sci-fi film The Island draws on a similar theme. Like Never Let Me Go, the plot centers on a society of clones being raised as organ donors. Spoilers: However, the clones in the film aren’t actually aware that they’re replications, and their originals have no idea that they’re awake, let alone cognizant beings. Though the doctors take every measure to keep the clones ignorant and docile, one – Lincoln Six Echo – starts to emotionally progress beyond regulation and develops unprecedented discontent with his life. It is, for lack of a better word, the evolution of an enlightened being; against all precaution, Lincoln Six Echo has become an individual.
Both movie and novel then make me wonder, what is it that divides “us” from “them”? What makes clones any different from their originals? Genetically they’re certainly the same; duplicates in fact. Why then should we believe they lack a soul? Is it a question of religion and morality, or one of convenience. Clones would, after all, cease to be mere organ incubators were they recognized as “real” people.
In Brave New World the cloning process is one which alienates society from individuality, but the clones in The Island and Never Let Me Go are full of passion, love, fear, emotion . . . humanity. And yet they’re considered soulless beings (if beings at all). More often they’re perceived as simply another technological advancement in the quest to extend the natural lifespan.
What then constitutes a soul? How do we define it? Can it be replicated? And most importantly, is that what makes us human?
This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2012. My theme is (in case you didn’t already guess) science fiction. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the rest of the participants, simply click here.