Never Let Me Go: Analysis by Ralph K Jones

Dystopian Literature Review

Never Let Me Go: Lost to Destiny

As you navigate through Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, you’ll find a touching celebration of life, as well as a heartbreaking tale of lost innocence, false hope, and helplessness to one’s fate. Its world, although it initially seems to be a pleasant one, is gradually revealed to be much more solemn than first glance. Alas, this world is never one that you or I would exist in, but once the truth is unveiled to us, we would find no solace in the fact.

Never Let Me Go revolves around the students of Hailsham, a special facility for rearing “donors”, as they grow up to fulfil their unique destinies. The children at Hailsham are totally isolated from the outside world, and apart from the cordial interactions with their guardians/teachers, all they have is each other. Art is a huge part of the students’ lives, and their main way of judging each other is based on how creative they are. As the students grow and mature, they are constantly reminded by the guardians of how special they are and the role they are to fulfil when they get older.

Never Let Me Go In-depth Review

The story of Never Let Me Go is told through the perspective of Kathy H. as she recalls her life at Hailsham and beyond. Along the way, she details her relationships with her two best friends, Ruth and Tommy, and as we witness them grow up together, the true nature of their lives is interwoven into the plot. We find that Tommy has a bad temper and is an outcast, but Kathy’s support helps him mature out of his situation. Ruth becomes preoccupied with her favourite guardian, Miss Geraldine, and engages in a number of activities to fulfil her longing for a maternal figure. Kathy also tells of her beloved Judy Bridgewater tape and her favourite song off it: “Never Let Me Go”. In explaining her interpretation of the song, she reveals that all the Hailsham students are sterile and that maintaining their health is of utmost importance. Afterwards, Miss Lucy tells her students that they will never be able to fulfil the dreams they have in life, as their only purpose is to serve as organ donors, and die doing so.

“Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.”

― Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

In Part Two of the book, the students graduate from Hailsham and move to cottages where they prepare to become carers for those who have already donated. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth meet students from other facilities, and they struggle to develop their identities in this expanded social group. Things are further complicated by rumours of “deferment”, where donations could be put off if two people could prove they are in love. Uncertainty and frustration causes their relationships to become strained, and they start to drift apart from one another.

Love is What Love Does

In Part Three of the book, Kathy has become a carer and sets out to care for Ruth after her first donation. The two rekindle their friendship, and they invite Tommy to go visit a wrecked ship together. Ruth suggests that Kathy and Tommy start-up a much-delayed relationship to try for a deferment. After Ruth dies due to her second donation, the two oblige, although Tommy seems remorseful that it occurred so late and under such dire circumstances.

Kathy and Tommy are able to track down one of their former guardians,

Kathy and Tommy are able to track down one of their former guardians, Miss Emily, and they have a thorough discussion about the nature of donors. Miss Emily explains that science progressed quickly after World War II, to the point where cloning became possible. People started using these methods to cure formerly incurable diseases without first considering the ethics. Donors were considered as less than human, but Miss Emily tried to make donors’ lives more bearable by founding Hailsham. Alas, while she managed to give Kathy, Tommy, and all the others a decent childhood, she couldn’t do anything to change their fates, and still felt revulsion at the sight of donors. The two leave with their hopes smashed, and after Tommy dies, Kathy reminiscences on her life as she prepares to give her first donation.

Never Let Me Go raises many questions about ethics, human nature, and living with one’s fate. The process of cloning and raising children to become organ donors is essentially the same as trading one’s life for another. This would not have been morally acceptable, so this society resorted to treating clones as disgusting creatures that were less than human. However, the stories of Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth prove this could not be further from the truth. They lived, they laughed, they fought, they cried, and most of all, they had grand dreams for the future that would never be fulfilled. In essence, the students at Hailsham were no less human than anyone else in the world. If such a science were to emerge in our own society, how low would we be willing to go in order to justify robbing others of their lives?

Never Let Me Go Ralph’s Wrap Up

Miss Emily’s intentions were noble, but the flaws of her approach, as well as her inability to see the students as human, ended up doing more harm than good. Miss Emily believed that not telling the students the truth about their existence would be best for them, arguing that they would not be able to enjoy their lives otherwise. However, just as Miss Lucy predicted, this course of action was a huge mistake. Basically all of the students ended up resigning to their fate, stating that donating their organs was simply what they were meant to do. If donors knew about what was in store for them from the beginning, they might have been able to live with more purpose, and possibly even fight for their rights as human beings. As wild as it seems, an act of rebellion could have been simple as smoking a cigarette or engaging in unprotected sex!

Regardless of how our world ends up embracing the newfound possibilities of advancing science, everyone has hopes and dreams, and somebody’s will always have to be cut short. Only time will tell if we decide that certain dreams are more worthy than others.

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