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This essay is an attempt to analyze the theme of family in Kazuo Ishiguros sixth novel Never let me go. Although it is a fiction novel, it is readily apparent that nearly everything has to do with this theme, being present throughout the book. It is a novel which mixes all types of personalities represented by the different characters in the book and shows many aspects of the society of the time. In fact, as is usual in Ishiguro's novels, he uses many symbols in representation of society and humanity.
The novel takes place in a non-conventional, exclusive boarding school in England, late 1990s, where children are grown up. It is not a common school since all the children there are being raised for one and only reason: donate their organs. In point of fact, the children are totally aware of the reason for their creation, and they perfectly know that after finishing their schooling they have to sacrifice themselves by donating their organs to 'normal' people. It seems that all the children in Hailsham accept this and they see it as a part of their lives. Some of them are given the chance to become carers, as Kathy, the main character of this bittersweet novel and at the same time the narrator. Ishiguro hints to the reader that the reason why Kathy become a carer is that she wanted to spend time reflecting about her past. 'My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go for another eight months , until the ends of this year' (3). This are the first lines of the book, so from the very beginning Ishiguro gives the reader the most important information that will develop during his work.
None of the children at Hailsham have parents since they have been cloned from their 'possibles'. In fact, they don't even have a real surname, which immediately make us think that they do not have biological parents and ancestors, not even brothers or sisters. Despite this, they do have some figures that takes the function of 'family members', forming a kind of 'big family' between them. As Rachel Cusk said in 'The Guardian', It is staffed by "guardians" who have the quasi-parental function of the boarding school housemaster or mistress: these worthies bear the knowledge of their charges' fate as best they can. For example the relationship between Ruth and Kathy is from early times a sort of sister's relation which goes evolving during the novel while passing through different situations by the time. 'That it was just to do with me and Ruth, and the sort of loyalty she inspired in me' (55). Whatever happens, both girls show unconditional support one to each other. When Kathy lost her music tape, she is quite upset about it, 'I can remember actually making a point humming absent-mindedly while I went on searching'(73) but Ruth is the one that tries to help her and gives support by giving her another tape as a present. 'Kathy, it's not your one. The one you lost. I tried to find it for you, but it's really gone.'(75) This shows that Ruth really cares about closer friend's problem and she works it out as soon as possible. Despite having very different characters and ways of dealing with what life has brought them, Kathy remembers that episode at Hailsham as one the most sweets, feeling very grateful once the becomes a carer 'Looking back, I can see how she must have realized, then and there, exactly what losing the tape meant to me, and at the same time, how important it mas for me there was no fuss.'(74)
In the society, usually they are the parents who explain all the information about sex and all that this entails, but not having parents doesn't mean that they do not have information about this theme. Sex is explained in a precise and a natural way, and under no circumstances is taboo, although they are not allowed to have sex in Hailsham. As Alan Williams says 'Naturally, all the students grow fixated upon sex as they mature'. ' Miss Emily used to give a lot of the sex lectures herself, and I remember once, she brought in a life-size skeleton from the biology class to demonstrate how it was done'. (82) They are also explained that they cannot have babies. So even if they are separated from the rest of the mortals, are aware of the important things in society in their own way. 'Out there people were even fighting and killing each other over who had sex withwhom' (82) They feel that they are different from the 'normal' people, and that sex for them doesn't mean procreation. Since they are children they have been given that idea about sex, making a 'common' idea. We can deduce that sex for them is a way to have fun, but has no function other than that. 'Even thought, as we knew it was completely impossible for any of us to have babies, out there, we had to behave like them.' (82) From the explanations that Ms. Emily gives to her pupils we are given the information that they are sterile, and they have already assumed it. Indeed, they have not been taught the skills of mothering. The have a short life to live, and as they are aware of it, they do not develop the instinct to have their own offspring , but they do develop other instincts which are much more 'selfish' such as love or sexual desire. They have got feelings and needs: they enjoy having sex, they fall in loveâ€¦Ishiguro wants to show that although they are clones, they have real feelings, and uses this moods to confirm their human side.
They have been given all the information about what they really are; clones, and that they have been created from their possible. Children at Hailsham do not know their possible but that this is notoriously one of the facts that they most worry about. Once at the cottages, Chrissie and Rodney come back from a trip saying that the might have seen Ruth's possible. 'The point is, they claim they saw thisâ€¦person. Working there in this open-plan office. And, well, you know. They reckon this person's a possible. For me. (136) I assume that finding their possible is like finding themselves in a common or 'normal' life, out of Hailsham, being raised by their parents and being in a total contact with the society. Finding their possible would be like seeing themselves behind glass, a glass which reflects what they really want to be. Furthermore, finding their possible is a way of seeing their future, and what they become into; a way of searching what they really are and will be in the future. They see in their possible a hope to think that have not been cloned and they have a promising future beyond being donors. Another interesting concept in 'Never let me go' is when Ruth sais 'We all know it. We're modeled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just sa long as they aren't psychos. That's what we come from. We all know it, so why don't we say it?'. (164) They have got that outlandish feeling that they are less than 'normal' people, and not knowing their real identities and origins disturb their psychos.
On one level seems that Ishiguro wants to show children's more human side by the sales. He is proving that not being in contact with the real word is not an impediment to develop their desire to buy and have something of the 'outside'. ' Once every month, a big white van would come down that long road and you'd feel the excitement all through the house and grounds'. (41). Moreover, I guess that getting something in the sales is a way of being responsible of something, feeling matures and in charge of something. By having their own 'thing' at a Sale, they have the impression that they are in charge of something, which is related to their thought of non-belonging. They translate their need to belong somewhere and to someone to their personal object, by taking care of it and keeping it a special item.
The pencil case incident is a meaningful way of reflecting that children at Hailsham ask for affection. Even if the event itself is not significant, has much background. Kathy describes Ruth's pencil case in a very weighty way 'It was shiny, like a polished shoe; a deep tan colour with circled red dots drifting all over it. The zip across the top edge had a furry pom-pom to pull it. I'd almost sat on the pencil case when I'd shifted and Ruth quickly moved it out of my way.'(56) this describes that it was strange some of them to have something which is in good conditions, since is not common getting something impressive at a Sale. When Ruth hints that her pencil case is a gift from Miss Geraldine, she makes the rest feel jealous about it. This is an evidence that the children are asking for love and affection in a very shameless way; as when a child ask his parents affection and feel jealous when they pay more affection to the rest than to their own child. A way of feeling protection from a mature figure and a referent for them, as if she was their mother and shows favoritism by giving a gift. Kathy recognizes that she would love the idea of being the one receiving Miss Geraldine's present ' Didn't we all dream from time to time about one guardian or other bending the rules and doing something special for us? A spontaneous hug, a secret letter, a gift?' (60)
Through carefully examining the role of the family throughout 'Never Let Me Go', we can interpret that although it does not appear any figure of the 'traditional' family, the ties that are developed between the characters are not a simple friendship and coexistence. They have emotional components that make them feel real emotional states, not artificial or created passions.