The 90s were a time where a new era was ushered in. The world was introduced to a new style, where African-American entertainment and culture were prospering and seen as the cool way to live. Americans were crazy for new groups such as the Backstreet Boys and N Sync, presenting a new style of music. However, the 90s pictured in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is much different. The story is narrated by Kathy H. , a “carer” who is at the end of her career. She is currently looking after her longtime friend Ruth, who just finished giving her “donations”.
We don’t know what these donations are, but they do not seem to be very positive. Growing up, the two of the lived in Hailsham, where they learned and studied to be creative, educated individuals, with the hopes of being noticed by Madame, the head of Hailsham. Kathy and Ruth look back on their time at Hailsham, discussing some of the best- and worst-times they had along with their other friend Tommy, who was known for his unusual temper tantrums. We find out that the children at Hailsham are actually clones. They were created to donate vital organs later in their lives if necessary.
Instead of attempting to fight for better, Kathy and her friends decide to accept their positions in society. Over the course of the novel, many motifs are used to develop the theme that submitting to your fate may be your best option. We begin to see the theme present itself early in the novel. When we first meet Kathy, she is 31 and in her final year as a carer. As she looks toward what is next for her she says, “I won’t be a carer any more come the end of the year… I’ll welcome the chance to rest- to stop and think and remember,” (37).
You would think that at 31, a person would be preparing to really live their life, do all the things that they had dreamed about when they were younger. But for Kathy, it is the opposite. She feels that she has already served her sole purpose in life, and that there is nothing left for her to do. As Kathy recalls some of her memories from being at Hailsham, the theme is also very evident. Once, Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy were arguing about Tommy’s thoughts on Madame’s Gallery, if it really existed, and what it was for.
When Ruth says that Kathy found his idea to be ridiculous, Kathy doesn’t deny it, despite the fact that it is untrue: “But I didn’t say or do anything… I remember a huge tiredness coming over me, a kind of lethargy in the face of the tangled mess before me. It was like being given a math problem when your brain’s exhausted, and you know there’s some far off solution, but you can’t work up the energy even to give it a go. Something in me just gave up,” (195). It is puzzling to Kathy not even make an attempt to find a solution to what is going on. The imagery used to describe Kathy’s posture gives us a visual of just how defeated she was.
The animal drawings that Tommy uses to support his theory, as well as many other animal related items throughout the novel, are one of the motifs used to develop the theme. The adult animal drawings that Tommy creates play a huge part in developing the theme of the novel. When describing the drawings, Kathy says, “The first impression was like one you’d get if you took the back off a radio set: tiny canals, weaving tendons, miniature screws and wheels were all drawn to obsessive precision,” (187). This type of precision and accuracy was taught to Tommy throughout his years at Hailsham.
Tommy never made an attempt to find his own path in life and changed the way he viewed the world. Instead he always lived his life with the “accuracy and precision” he learned at Hailsham: to live his life a certain way and ask no questions about it. Also, the clones that come from Hailsham are treated like animals. Animals are killed when they are needed by humans. They are used for clothing, furniture, food, and other accessories. The clones at Hailsham are also killed when needed. In their case, they are killed for donations of their organs when humans are in need of them.
And they seem to accept this fate, the same way animals have the fate that they will eventually be killed by something, because that the way the world works. In the end of the novel, Kathy and Ruth discuss what their lives could’ve been like had they chosen a different path once they left. Kathy asks Ruth why she never pursued the possibility of getting to office job she had always dreamed of. With a barely audible voice, Ruth tells her, “How could I have tried… It’s just something I once dreamed about. That all,” (230). Ruth again shows the idea that her fate is sealed and there was no possibility of defying the life she was given to live.
We see many of the characters in Never Let Me Go follow the theme that sometimes your fate is sealed and it is easier to accept it. Kathy has a choice at the end of the novel on whether to go to Madame and request to leave on her own, or continue on the path Hailsham set her on. Her choice is to complete her donations, since she decides that fighting it is useless. The motif used to develop the theme, animals created by Tommy, shows how he stuck to the precision from Hailsham, and that he wasn’t willing to change himself once he left.