Never Let Me Go


Kazuo Ishiguro

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Themes and Colors
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
Individual Goals vs. Social Expectations Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Never Let Me Go, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Never Let Me Go is an example of a “bildungsroman,” or a novel of one person’s education. In this case, Kathy H., the narrator and protagonist, details her education at Hailsham and “the Cottages,” and then her career as a “carer.” The novel is characterized by Kathy H.’s disappointments, anxieties, and moments of happiness as she gets older, and becomes closer with her two friends Tommy and Ruth. Kathy and the other characters recall…

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Some of the novel’s more poignant moments involve the conflict between characters’ individual goals and the social world governing those characters. The novel’s clones make plans for their futures as though they might be allowed to live their own, fulfilling lives—even as they know, in the back of their minds, that these plans are either impossible or highly improbable. Ruth wants, above all, to have a “normal” office job; only Kathy seems to realize that…

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One of the characteristics of the novel’s structure is a pattern of losing and finding, both of people and objects. The primary place both of losing and finding is Norfolk, the seaside town in a “lost corner” of England, as explained in a geography class by the guardians to the students of Hailsham. Although this is primarily meant to imply that Norfolk isn’t easily accessible by motorway, Ruth, Tommy, and Kathy interpret…

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Although the clones have different biological “beginnings” from other human beings in England—who are glimpsed only fleetingly in the novel, with the exception of the staff at Hailsham—they live lives notable for their fundamentally “human” qualities. That is, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy must learn to live with one another, cope with romantic failures and excitements, and confront the realities of their own deaths. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy and the other clones are…

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Perhaps the most important theme in the novel is that of love, care, and donation. “Care” and “donation” might be interpreted each in two ways. In the first, technical definition, care is that which a carer provides to a donor—the kind of human interaction a donor needs when facing the pain of organ donation. And “donation” refers either to the giving away of organs or, earlier, at Hailsham, to the giving away of art—which…

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