Analysis Of The Themes In Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go

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Kazuo Ishiguro depicts a compelling, but tragic love story in his novel, Never Let Me Go, all while involving science-fiction elements and hints of realism. The novel specifically focuses on three clones, and how their relationships and personalities contribute to the novel. It raises the question, what does is mean to be truly human? The story is told by Kathy H, who is one of the three clones the novel is focused on. Kathy tells her story through her memories with her closest friends, Ruth and Tommy, and her time at Hailsham. Ishiguro’s dissertation portrays several different themes throughout the story, such as friendship, memory, and loss. This essay will analyze how ethics and morals come into question, concerning the cloning of humans. In addition, how do the characters in the story cope with their growing awareness of their devastating fate ahead of them, and how they deal with loss? How does the friendship between Kathy, Ruth and Tommy contribute to the novel?

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In the beginning of the novel, the readers are introduced to Kathy H,who is thirty one; as a “carer”. She also describes how she is proud of her work, and how she has “donors”, but does not explain exactly what her job is, or what a donor is. The characters Tommy and Ruth are also mentioned briefly, and Kathy also says how she is allowed to choose her donors, and then reveals how she is from a place called Hailsham. Ishiguro’s deliberate use of confusion and lack of explanation at the beginning of the novel portrays that he wanted to entice readers into a false sense of security. Ishiguro’s use of the theme of the unknown suggests that there may be some hidden secrets or something darker further on in the novel.

Kathy’s selective memory seems to be a recurrent theme in the novel as well, since she is the only narrator in the book. She states several times in the novel how she doesn’t recall how several events happened, or how she doesn’t “remember fully” how it happened. From this, readers can infer that Kathy may not be telling the full truth about how certain events happened, and there may be some bias involved. Furthermore, the events are interpreted in Kathy’s perspective, and Kathy has proven to misunderstand situations, and misinterpret things often.

The novel is split into three parts, for each part of the clones’ lives. The first part is about Kathy’s formative days at Hailsham, and how the bond between her, Ruth, and Tommy formed. The formation of their identities is also formed in this section of the novel. The second part of the novel is about their time at the Cottages. During this time, the students from Hailsham are given more independence to simulate how their life would be before donations would start. In this section, the characters personalities seem to have changed, and the relationship between Ruth, Tommy and Kathy, changes drastically. The characters have grown up a bit, and insecurities and uncertainties about events are evident in this section as well. The last part of the novel, focuses on Kathy’s time as a carer. The section goes into detail about the three friends reuniting together after 10 years of being apart. Several things that were buried come to light in this section of the novel, as well as hidden feelings about things from the past.

The theme of friendship is very evident in the novel. We can see this through the friendship between Friendship is defined as a state of mutual trust and support between one or more people. To me, friendship is a combination of many things. It’s trust, loyalty, respect, and many more things. True friendship is when is when the person knows you better than you know yourself. To me, it’s long lasting and it goes beyond just spending time together all the time. Ishiguro depicts friendship in the novel with the idea that real friends never let go. We see in the novel that the friendship between Tommy, Kathy, and Ruth portrays this idea. The three friends in the novel are seen to go through several trials and tribulations, but still see each other as friends, regardless of all the fights or arguments they go through. However, the question raises not only in the novel, but in general, what exactly constitutes a friendship? In the novel, there are several external circumstances that influence the friendships. Things such as societal expectations, peer pressure and personal insecurities can influence friendships between people. These factors, also used by Ishiguro, raise the question on what it truly means to be friends.

In the novel, it is evident that all the students at Hailsham saw each other as friends, and relied on each other heavily. This is because the students were aware of the fact that they had no parents, and no other family, but they all had each other. Around the beginning of the novel, Kathy states how she would purposely look for former Hailsham students to take care of during her days as a carer. “I started seeking out for my donors people from the past, and whenever I could, people from Hailsham”. Ishiguro uses this to portray how important friendship is to Kathy, and the idea that she has never let go of the memories of them.

Furthermore, Hailsham is something that is mentioned heavily in the book. It is always referred back to in several events that Kathy or any of the other students reminisce about. Hailsham seems to be an emotional attachment, rather than just a physical place for the students, especially Kathy. She talks about Hailsham in a way that sounds like it fulfills her even more than a real person would. For instance, “I’ll have Hailsham with me, safely in my head, and that’ll be something no one can take away”. Kathy constantly talks about Hailsham in a way that makes it seem personified like a personified figure to her. Ishiguro depicts Hailsham in the novel to be a safe-haven for the students. Based on this, Kathy’s constant referring back to her old Hailsham days makes it seem as if Hailsham did not exist, then all the memories and bonds she has built over time would not be there. Additionally, this proves how Hailsham has held the students together over their formative years, and how Ishiguro presents Hailsham as an emotional attachment for the clones.

As the novel moves through the lives of the clones, going back and forth between the past and the present, it is clear that the friendship between Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth was not perfect. Kathy states in the final chapter of the book, “The way it is, it’s like there’s a line with us on one side and Ruth on the other…”. This quote depicts how Kathy saw their friendship as divided as the years went on. However, even through this division, they all stayed loyal to each other, through all the fights and arguments, and the time they spent apart from each other. Ishiguro uses the friendship between Ruth, Tommy and Kathy to prove that even the most difficult and forced of friendships can last, if the people are willing to hold on.

Kathy and Ruth’s friendship in the novel is seen to be quite toxic and almost forced. Although, the two friends do have a genuine bond between each other. Kathy spends most of her time in the past, talking about how her and Ruth came to meet. She also goes into detail about several things Ruth had done, or said. Such as, the pencil case incident. When all the students are together, Ruth is seen having a new pencil case. Kathy inquisitively asks if she got it from the sales, and Ruth replies back with a vague answer. “Let’s just agree I got it in the sales”. This answer implies that the pencil case was not from the Sales, but from one of the guardians, Miss Geraldine. In the novel, the students are led to believe that Ruth is Miss Geraldine’s favorite. Kathy not believing Ruth, checks the register books for the Sales, and sees that Ruth did in fact, get the pencil case at the Sales. When she confronts Ruth about it, she becomes upset at the fact that Kathy knows the truth. In this instance, Ishiguro depicts a sense of triumphance for Kathy, since she was right about where the pencil case was from. However, the atmosphere is changed when Kathy starts to feel bad about what she did. This makes the reader empathize with Ruth, and feel bad for her.

This incident between Ruth and Kathy is significant in the idea of friendship in the novel. We see that this incident is Ruth and Kathy’s first falling out in the novel. This incident tests their friendship, to see how genuine it is. At first, Kathy did not trust Ruth, since she questioned what she said about the pencil case. This portrays that the two friends were not very close at this point in the novel. On the contrary, it depicts how genuine their friendship is, since Kathy felt guilty about upsetting Ruth. This ties back into Ishiguro’s idea of external circumstances affecting friendships, as he uses different events to test the characters’ true friendships.

14 May 2021

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