Theme of Identity in Never Let Me Go

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Response to Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go is an incredibly intense novel, filled with many emotional scenes. Ultimately, it includes the perfect examples of a full-blown identity crisis. The children raised at Hailsham are desperate to understand the purpose of their own lives, bodies, and minds. The children attain a sense of identity through their treasured collections, creativity, artwork and delicate social structures.

Always Searching
No one appears exempt from the harsh realities offered by the ambiguity of human identity; people seem to search incessantly for meaning and purpose in their lives. Reflecting upon the vast array of material explored this semester; I realized how frequently literature, films, and artwork focus on the complexity of human identity and humanity. Kazou Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go presents a dystopian society that focuses on the search for identity and meaning through curiosityand self-expression. This work demonstrates how disease and human imperfection can disconnect people from the external world, often causing them to forget the present and lose themselves in the future. By looking at the novel through Susan Sontag’s essay AIDS and Its Metaphors we can better understand the haunting correlations between the stigmas surrounding illness and their effects on one’s identity. Through the ability to interpret and understand these correlations we might craft a better understanding of our own identity.

Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go, is a gripping portrayal of humans who are being stripped of their identity and labeled as mere copies. The novel, set in Britain during the mid-1990’s, portrays a bleak world, where cloning humans is socially acceptable solely for the purpose of becoming organ donors for “real” people. Ishiguro focuses on three distinct characters, Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth, all of whom are clones. These three students – among others –are considered advantaged because they are fortunate enough to be raised at Hailsham, under the protective eye of “the guardians” and allowed certain privileges. Early on in Never Let Me Go, there is a sense that Hailsham students create art in order to make their identities tangible. The students desperately try to hold on to a sense of individuality through small collections, and their ability to create beautiful and meaningful pieces. Growing up, Kathy felt that how one was “regarded at Hailsham, how much you were liked and respected, had to do with how good you were at creating” (Ishiguro 16). This suggests that humans often attempt to create self-image through means of creation in other aspects of their lives. The students are raised to seek validity in the things they create, whether that be paintings, sculpture, or poetry.

Ishiguro also portrays the troubling possibility that our self-identity is incredibly fragile, and can transform itself when others impose judgments upon us. All of the students at Hailsham diligently attempt to improve their art in order to have their pieces selected for “the gallery,” which is an extensive collection of their best works. Consequently, this changes the students’ perception of their own self-worth, causing them to doubt their individuality and meaning. Since Madame, curator of the gallery, always keeps a peculiar distance from the students, Kathy and a group of friends conceive a plan to test her reaction to their presence. For the students, this begins as a lighthearted experiment fueled by curiosity, but this feeling quickly disintegrates when Madame reacts in horror causing the students to acknowledge that something about them is unacceptable. Kathy explains her feelings by saying “the first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it’s a cold moment” (Ishiguro 36). This causes Kathy and her classmates to suddenly doubt everything they once viewed as concrete. Before this incident, the students were seemingly unaware that they terrified the general...
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