Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 335–348 | Cite as

Exploration of Ethical Debates through Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Smith’s On Beauty



This essay examines debates over alternative ethical formulations that break from the Kantian model through contemporary fiction—Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss (2006), Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty (2005). The essay returns to the theory, the ethics of care, put forward by Carol Gilligan in In a Different Voice (1982), which has regained significance in the context of questions surrounding care in contemporary ethical thinking. While the three novels are concerned with ideas of care, beauty, justice and the tyranny of the mainstream, this essay examines particular themes in particular texts which suggest that ideas with otherwise subversive potential—like care or beauty or justice—lose their radicalism when they are incorporated within the impersonal, masculinist mainstream. Carol Gilligan’s feminine ethics of care, with its respect for the particular, is not only still important as the stimulus to thinking about alternatives to overarching ethical discourses, but it could also re-confer these concepts of care, beauty and justice their revolutionary potential.


Ethics Care Gilligan Ishiguro Desai Smith 


  1. Bunting, Madeleine. 2011. “Our Market-shaped way of Life has no time for the Elderly or The Art of Caring.” Accessed October 19, 2011.
  2. Desai, Kiran. 2006. The Inheritance of Loss. London: Hamish Hamilton-Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  3. Hekman, Susan J. 1995. Moral Voices, Moral selves: Carol Gilligan and Feminist Moral Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  4. Ishiguro, Kazuo. 2005. Never Let Me Go. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
  5. Nozick, Robert. 2006. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  6. Nussbaum, Martha. 1999. Sex and Social Justice. New York: Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Plato. 1983. The Symposium. Translated by W. Hamilton. Harmondworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  8. -----. 1985. The Republic. Translated by Richard W. Sterling and William C. Scott. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  9. Robbins, Bruce. 2007.“Cruelty Is Bad: Banality and Proximity in Never Let Me Go”. Accessed November 3, 2011.
  10. Scarry, Elaine. 2001. On Beauty and Being Just. London: Duckbacks-Duckworth Media Group.Google Scholar
  11. Sen, Amartya. 2006. Identity and Violence: The Destiny of Illusion. New York; London: W. W. Norton & Co.Google Scholar
  12. Smith, Zadie. 2006. On Beauty. Leicester: W F Howes ltd.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Durham UniversityDurhamUK

Personalised recommendations