Hailsham. A prestigious boarding school hidden from
the world. Filled with special children that are created to fulfill a purpose
in their life. They are bounded by the outside world, learning what they can
from books, music and magazines that they acquire from the “sales” that occur every
couple of weeks. These children are raised to take care of their bodies and their
own health in order to fulfill their destiny. They are organ donors, cloned to
give up their bodies when others need them. However, as the novel progresses,
the audience soon realizes that there is more than meets the eye and that there
is quite nothing prestige about Hailsham. Never Let Me Go, the dystopian novel
by award winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, takes place in the late 1990’s in
England telling the story of Kathy H and her experiences at Hailsham from a
small child until she matures into a young lady. Kathy as the narrator of this
novel, also tells the story of many other children that grow up alongside her. The
two other characters that Kathy mainly focuses on her relationship with are her
classmates, Ruth and Tommy. Ishiguro displays themes of love, identity and
friendship between these three drastically unique characters and as the novel
progresses, their bond only becomes stronger to a point where it is
unbreakable. As the students mature into young adults, the story shifts to the
cottages and finally to Kathy becoming a carer, the final part of their lives
as donors beginning. Written by acclaimed author of When We Were Orphans,
Never Let Me Go, is a coming-of-age novel that takes readers onto a
journey that is filled with rekindling childhood memories, reconnecting with
past experiences and experiencing unfulfilled dreams. This dystopian novel is
filled with emotional scenes, unraveling the truth and adventure that three
friends undergo to dawn clarity on the dark secrets behind Hailsham’s nurturing
façade.

 

This science fiction novel takes place in England
in the late 1990’s and revolves around the limited settings of Hailsham, the
cottages and the donor recovery centers.  A dramatic contrast can be seen between each setting.
Hailsham is the first setting that is introduced into the novel and is where
Kathy spends the first sixteen years of her life growing up. Hailsham is quite
different than the outside world, sheltering special children that are born
without parents, a last name or any form of identity, rather the children are
raised by “guardians”. At first glance Hailsham would seem as any other
boarding school, however many secrets lie between the walls. For the children
growing up, Hailsham acts as a refuge, protecting them from the dangers of the
outside world. However, in reality Hailsham is an isolated school that is
created to segregate the clones from the rest of society. The isolation of the
school and the fearful stories of the outside world collectively keep the students
in fear of never leaving. Kathy acknowledges the fear that the outside world
embedded in her when she states, “The woods were at the top of the hill that
rose behind Hailsham House. All we could see really was a dark fringe of trees,
but I certainly wasn’t the only one of my age to feel their presence day and
night” (5.4). Evidently, the woods surrounding the school were worry some to many
of the students and the myths surrounding the forest, caused concern and
anxiety to rise up. The woods kept the students contained and isolated,
restricting them from finding their true purpose in life. Similarly, to how
Kathy could feel the presence of the woods, she could feel the presence of her
impending fate. The forest gave the children a vague awareness of the future
realities that were anticipated. Simultaneously, Hailsham also acted as a
symbol of innocence in the children and the later destruction of Hailsham
symbolizes the loss of innocence in the children. Hailsham protected the little
humanity that ran through the veins of the students and it was later revealed
that to many clones, Hailsham was a privilege, a blessing in disguise. Kathy’s
revelation of this fact occurred when she stated that, “There have been times
over the years when I’ve tried to leave Hailsham behind, when I’ve told myself
I shouldn’t look back so much. But then there came a point when I just stopped
resisting. It had to do with this particular donor I had once, in my third year
as a carer; it was his reaction when I mentioned I was from Hailsham” (Ishiguro
#). As Kathy looks back onto her time at Hailsham with her friends Ruth and
Tommy, memories of all experiences start flooding back. Her earliest
relationships and best memories came from her time at that school and she begins
to comprehend that resisting her memories from that time in her life is
pointless. Her time at Hailsham shaped her into the person that she became and
defines her as a carer. Despite many donors yearning to erase their own
traumatic childhood, Kathy realizes that she was fortunate enough to have her
upbringing in a place like Hailsham and has a revelation that Hailsham will
always have a special place in her heart.

 

The many relationships that Kathy created,
destroyed and desired for all began at Hailsham. Ishiguro gives life to Kathy,
Ruth and Tommy each with their own unique personality, each character dealing
with their inevitable fate in a unique way. As the narrator of Never Let Me
Go, Kathy H. bases the majority of the novel on her own recollections of
events as well as flashbacks. Kathy is a character that is very relatable, and through
her thought process she can be analyzed to be a very innocent, thoughtful young
lady. She acts on what she believes in and goes out of her way to help others
in need. As Kathy reminiscences on her days at Hailsham she remembers the
multiple occasions that other students would be bullying Tommy and she would be
rushing to his aid. In one flashback Kathy recalls that “… I started
to drift over towards him. I knew this would puzzle the others, but I kept
going- even when I heard Ruth’s urgent whisper to me to come back” (Ishigurio
11).  Even at a young age the protagonist
feels as if it is her duty to aid others whenever she could however, her guilty
consciousness stops her from doing so to an extent due to her judgemental
friends. Ruth is known as one of these characters, contrasting Kathy quite
well. Ruth is shown in the novel to be quite impulsive and selfish, trying
heavily to fit in with the students at Hailsham. Due to the many selfish acts
and schemes that Ruth had pulled on Kathy, she maturates long before Tommy and
Ruth. By the time Kathy becomes a carer, her maturity acts as an advantage and
causes her to become more independent. Here she discovers herself and realizes
that no matter how hard she tries, not everyone in this world can be saved and
that she should begin to pay more attention to helping her own self. At this
point in the novel, for the first time Kathy confronts the reality of death. Kathy
and her friends will never be able to live a normal life, have a family or keep
a real job and this knowledge affects each character’s personalities in a
particular way. Ruth responds to this information by becoming rebellious and
power-driven, determined to receive the upper-hand any way possible. She did
this by blocking the romance that arises between Tommy and Kathy, taking Tommy
for herself while being deceitful behind Kathy’s back simultaneously. However,
as the novel progresses Ruth’s character also undergoes quite a change in
personality and begins to see things under a different light. She beings to
mature and recognizes all the errors that she committed at her time in Hailsham.
Kathy’s lover, Tommy was a complex character that had both parts of Ruth and
Kathy’s personalities ingrained into him. Kathy’s fragile personality was
demonstrated in Tommy because of how emotional he was, responding to his
situation of being an organ donor with anger. In a flashback Kathy recalled
that, “I caught a glimpse of his face in the moonlight, caked with mud and
distorted with fury, then I reached for his flailing arms and held on tight.” Unlike
Ruth, Tommy was often cast out by his peers, soon leaving his as an undesired
outsider by many. Tommy was a character that took things to heart more than
others, identical to Kathy. The way that Ishiguro creates these characters is
very interesting. Even though they spend their childhood at the same boarding
school and have the same purpose in life, each character in Never Let Me Go
deals with their problems quite differently, approaching each problem that they
have in their own unique way.

 

 Ishiguro
cleverly incorporates many themes and ideas into the novel, the theme of identity
becoming highlighted as the characters are developed. Never Let Me Go portrays
the lives of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth some of the many humans that are stripped of
their identity and seen as mere duplicates. This causes the students to
surrender a large component of their lives at Hailsham in finding their true identity
and own individuality as they mature. There is a humanistic urge embodied into
each of the characters soul’s where they desire for belonging. Even as young
children, Kathy, Tommy and Ruth understand their purpose in life, however, they
are continuously on this journey to figure out if they are more than living,
breathing organ containers. Rather than being able to experience their identity
as individuals, the children raised as Hailsham are torn between finding
themselves in the identities that are already sealed upon them. Being able to
reproduce, having a family and parents doesn’t make someone human, rather it’s
the emotions that do. Kathy explains “it’s like walking past a mirror you’ve
walked past every day of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else,
something troubling and strange” (Ishigurio 36). This point in the novel demonstrates
the first time that Kathy examines herself through the eyes of another being,
tearing her between the way others view her and how she views herself. Kathy
displays a very common human reaction of wanting to be accepted by others. The
search for their “possibles” was another indicator as to how the clones were
yearning for some identity to grasp. As Kathy narrates the novel, she states
that “all of us, to varying degrees, believed that when you saw the person you
were copied from, you’d get some insight into who you were deep down, and maybe
too, you’d see something of what your life held in store” (Ishiguro 140). To
the students at Hailsham their “possibles” are their only window to the outside
world, holding what little hope they possess at finding their true selves. The
closest resemblance that they have to any sort of family or origins ties back
to the “possibles” and this provides the students with a sense of belonging in
the outside world. The relations that Kathy creates throughout her life at Hailsham
and later on at the Cottages, is a result of her compensating for her loss of
identity.  Kathy and her friends are on a
journey to search for their identities, until they realize that the relationships
that they created with each other and the people they surrounded themselves with
are the ones that made the difference. This induces the characters to become
further attached, somewhat clingy because they are the only means of support
and belonging for one another and in a way provide each other with a sense of
identity. The various humanistic themes of identity, hope and friendship that
are embodied into the novel Never Let Me Go, strengthens the novel and creates
it into a more relatable, intriguing read.

 

The dystopian novel Never Let Me Go, by
Kazou Ishigurio combined with the alluring settings, relatable characters and
numerous themes makes the novel a wonderful captivating read. The different settings
that became bleaker as the novel progresses provides a strong addition to the
narration of the story. The setting tied in with the vast contrast in
personality surrounding the students at Hailsham, captures the reader into this
heart-wrenching novel and also provides life to their outer appearance as
clones. Likewise, the numerous themes that Ishigurio seamlessly embeds into the
pages of his novel, gives life to his characters and allows for the readers to
become lost between the pages. The novel’s writing style is simple, yet captures
the sheer depth of real emotions that his characters feel. Overall, these
literary devices combined provides readers with a one of a kind sci-fi reality
novel. This novel is worthy of four out of five stars, appealing to young
mature readers. The couple of flaws that restricted the novel in receiving five
stars would be because of the conversational aspect that was within the reading
style. This sort of device provided an interesting change for the first couple
of chapters, however, later became quite repetitive. Nonetheless, despite that
one minor flaw the settings, theme and characters all wrapped together, made
for quite a masterpiece. The novel contains some mature ideas that may be too
much for some readers such as suicide and strong sexual content and is recommended
to be suitable for mature young- adult readers. Never Let Me Go is a
masterfully written fiction novel by acclaimed author Kazou Ishigurio, that
raises many questions on what it means to be human and the decisions that are chosen
in the face of impending death. The numerous aspects woven into the novel allows
the readers to become entrapped and tied into their lives until the end.