Never Let Me Go, written and published in 2005, is a dystopian fiction novel with a touch of science-fiction and a great heart-wrenching story. The main theme that is pursued through the characters and their narrative is the inevitability of loss. Kazuo Ishiguro writes Never Let Me Go using title meaning, imagery, and writing style to encourage people to uncover the mere meaning and values of life by portraying the lives of human clones, who are attempting to answer questions of self-identity as the main character looks back on her childhood and comes to the realization that death is near.
The novel takes place in England around the late 90s. The story is written in the first person narrative of Kathy H, a 31 year-old woman who describes her past life as a young student attending a private school called Hailsham. Kathy reflects on this time for the majority of the book and focuses on her interactions with her best friends, Ruth and Tommy, as well as the guardians who care for them. Every student at this school is taught a few primary ideals, first being that they are special and different, and that being healthy is very important and necessary. These young children are not able understand however, that each of them are genetically produced clones whose sole purpose is to donate their organs to other humans in need. As Kathy reminisces about her time at Hailsham, she references to a couple incidents about how her relationship with Ruth and Tommy change over time, and how their shared past along with their “special gift” will shape the rest of their time spent together. Ishiguro titles this novel Never Let Me Go, creating an element of meaning behind this phrase.
The first obvious connotation behind this is the fact that the phrase is the name of Kathy’s all-time favorite song by Judy Bridgewater. Not only does she adore the song itself, but because it encourages her to think back on her childhood, which is something she never wants to “let go”. This concept of the song mentioned in the start of the novel influences the reader to attempt to comprehend how Kathy is now finally understanding how her childhood was more important than she ever thought it was, now that she is older and knows what her actual purpose is. While reading this novel, it is noticed that Kazuo Ishiguro uses many instances of imagery, specifically about water. The first example of subtle imagery is when Tommy feels as if he is being pulled away from his dear friend Kathy, just like a strong wave that has the power to rip away anything in its path (page 282). This metaphor is a negative idea, however other instances of water imagery are positive, such as Tommy’s celebration when playing football at Hailsham.
As he happily praises his football goal, Tommy creates a fantasy where he is splashing through water because of the rare occurrence where he can fit in. These two examples of imagery in the novel contrast between positive and negative implications, creating a representation of the ups and downs of an ideal “human life”, something that the characters deeply desire in place of their lives as a donor. The narrator, Kathy, has a very personable and piecemeal way of unravelling the story of her time at Hailsham. This complex but effective writing style is an important element that Kazuo Ishiguro uses to evoke emotions in the reader and contributes to Kathy’s life story. Kathy has the habit of being overly descriptive throughout the novel, as well as changing the subject ever so often when she feels like it, which creates suspense for the audience. For example, in Chapter 6, Kathy chats about Ruth and the importance of her kindness towards Kathy. Almost in the middle of her story, she quickly moves on and says “Okay actually, I want to move on now to our last year at Hailsham.” This one example of many demonstrates how Kathy not only gives the audience a great story-telling adventure, but provides them with the challenging task of keeping up with her flashbacks.
Even though Kathy’s gradual and jumpy method of describing her childhood is confusing at times, it properly allows her story to unwind and look back on why her days at Hailsham were valuable compared to her days as a carer, now knowing of her and her friends set out life. Never Let Me Go is well-written, suspenseful, and creates a heartbreaking story for many. Ishiguro not only starts the reader’s emotional journey by establishing a title with hidden meaning, he uses specific imagery and writing style to narrate Kathy’s long eventful childhood and what it means to her after the realization that her, Ruth, and Tommy are close to their passing of a short life.