Essay on 'Never Let Me Go' Setting

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It could suggest that the past is not ‘dead’, due to its emphasis and depth of portrayal, as well as its common reoccurrence throughout both texts. Ishiguro and Williams both use their first-person narratives to explore themes and central character depictions, by creating a retrospective, backward-looking tone, reflecting the strong emotional attachment characters have to their past. ‘Never Let Me Go’ a dystopian novel was largely influenced by the events of violence that occurred in Britain, following the major cutbacks of public services. T.G.M. was a play set during the climax of the great depression, where central themes revolve around the pursuit of economic prosperity.

In the novel, ‘Never Let Me Go `` by Kazuo Ishiguro, a central focus is built around the narrator, ‘Kathy’, who heavily draws upon her memories. Her direct conversational tone throughout the novel, using adjectives such as ‘vivid’ and ‘beautiful’ presents an idealized version of her childhood and formative years as well as setting the structure of the novel. Furthermore, Kathy’s narrative style conveys themes such as ‘memory’, which can largely be viewed as a way of her reliving her past experiences and relationships. In the opening chapters, she introduces herself and references her childhood at Hailsham. Ishiguro draws heavy emphasis on her fascination with the past, therefore demonstrating its significance to the story. An example of this presentation is strongly signified in the second chapter where she revisits events with her childhood friends. She states “This was all a long time ago so I might have some of it wrong”. The use of past tense can ultimately imply the degree of interest Kathy has in her previous experiences as she has a strong inclination to constantly convey her past to the reader. Similarly, It’s important to consider Ishiguro's fascination with his past, as it may have served as a possible influence on his writing. Having moved from Nagasaki to England at the age of 5, he comments on adjusting to life in Western society, however draws pride in his origins and nativity. He states “ Nagasaki is not just a few hazy images” and he “remembers it as a real chunk of life”. Conclusively Kathy’s evocative outlook symbolizes a sense of wishfulness to relive the past as her current lifestyle may be unfavorable. It’s also evident in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ how the characters can refer to the past as an apparent haven and place of solace to use it as an escape from reality. For instance, the character of Amanda comforts herself with recollections of her earlier and gracious life where she was pursued by ‘gentlemen callers’. She states “Women knew how to entertain their callers”. This could exemplify her emotions regarding the past, as it serves as a source of comfort to her lone parent status in her current life.

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There are conflicting ideas about the portrayal of the past in both texts. For instance, Amanda reminisces on the past by recalling her experience with ‘gentlemen callers’, which may be an attempt to project her visions onto Laura. For example, by stating how “Girls in those days knew how to talk, I can tell you,'' Williams may be implying the significance Amanda holds to the past, as she attempts to reflect her notions onto her daughter. It’s also worth noting throughout the play, Amanda’s constant obsession in tainting Laura’s presentation to be that of her ideal figure of a woman. Furthermore, it could ultimately be argued that Amanda attempts to portray this image to her daughter to relive her past. In a similar respect, Williams also draws similarities with the character depiction of Jim. For instance, in scene seven, Jim is initially displayed as a source of confidence and almost as an emissary of the world of normality to the family. In his conversation with Laura, he becomes engrossed in his past, through reminiscing on his high school years. This is reinforced through the repetition in which he recalls his pers for Laura, “Blue roses, my gosh yes-Blue roses”. The excitement in his tone could therefore symbolize his eagerness to relive his past role as a symbol of infatuation for girls such as Laura. Overall it’s significant in understanding how the theme of the past is integrated by Williams in other aspects of the play, in the idea that it may present false perceptions to the characters. This is reinforced towards the end of the scene; Jim’s for Laura reflects both characters' naivety in recreating their past. Moreover, Williams also exposes these flawed hopes through the reflection and symbolism of the fragility of the glass ‘Unicorn’ and that of Laura’s nature. This is made evident at the end of the scene, where Jim shatters Laura’s rose-tinted perception of a future relationship, through the revelation of his association with ‘Betty’, his fiance.

The characters in ‘Never Let Me Go’ grow up in ‘Hailsham’, where they are made aware of their position in society and what has been set out for their lives. Therefore their predetermined paths reflect external control over their intellectual and physical freedom. Shameem Black suggests that ‘Hailsham’ builds a virtual barrier through the emphasis on artistic production, due to the creativity expected from the clones. This could serve as a strong reflection of the dystopian society the novel takes place in. Here, it could be articulated that Ishiguro was influenced by the fast-moving period of

development in the biological and medical sciences. In the 1990s, scientists in the Western world began work on cloning—the first “clone” ever created was a sheep named Dolly, therefore these research findings serve as a huge societal phenomenon in this period. Through Kathy's narration of the contrast between life at Hailsham and as an adult in chapter seven, “The earlier years, I can't help feeling some sort of glow”, she almost portrays a degree of regret whilst looking back at her past. Stephen Dilley comments, stating themes of “Holding on and Letting Go in the Tangible World ”, ultimately indicating the value of the reminiscent aspect of the novel. Similarly, this outlook on the past possibly relates to Tom’s perception in The Glass Menagerie. It is evident at the start of the play how Tom conveys his remorse associated with leaving his family to join the Navy. He especially implies a strong sense of guilt towards leaving Laura, 'I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!'. It’s also important to consider the possibility of Tom suffering a strong emotional strain, over guilt that he may feel responsible for Laura’s shattered dreams with Jim. Overall, this contributes to the view that the past can be interpreted as an emotional burden for the characters.

However, a distinctive edge in portrayal is showcased through Williams presenting Tom as having the desire to escape the past to fulfill and pursue his adventurous life. The desire for his ideal lifestyle is evident and reinforced throughout several instances of the play. For example, he seeks poetry and movies as a means to fulfill his lust for an escapade, to free himself from his unsatisfying job at the warehouse. He declares his motives for such activities to his mother, “Adventure is something I don’t have much of at work, so I go to the movies'. Additionally, he finds poetry as a way of orchestrating his creativity by nature, being able to illustrate his world where he feels a sense of freedom. Perhaps Williams reflected on events from his personal life, in which he describes his position in a shoe factory, where he classified his time there as “the most miserable” two years of his life. Ultimately, the past could strongly be interpreted as an ideal that is regarded as an emotional burden, and the only alternative to counteract its misfortune is the mere desire for a more pleasant future.

However in contrast to this perspective, in 'Never Let Me Go', Ishiguro also portrays his characters, most notably Kathy, to have a lack of emotions, such as an absence of guilt when reflecting on the past. This is depicted through the blunt tone of her narration throughout the entirety of the novel. As readers, we can also critique the understanding of how the central characters are portrayed by Ishiguro. Through Kathy's reminiscing narration of her friends, It's crucial to consider the obliviousness of the characters to the events that occur around them, which symbolizes their lack of freedom, and great naivety. Ishiguro also implies that a sense of control was indoctrinated in the characters at the early stages of their lives. Overall, even though the central figures of the novel have predetermined destinies, Kathy's narration of the past does not convey any remorse or guilt, but in contrast, perceives it as a source of comfort and aspires to relive her years.

Alternatively, it could be suggested that both Ishiguro and Williams show characters reviewing the past as a means of escaping thoughts of mortality. Dilley suggests that “characters are unable to face their mortality”. This is emphasized through Kathy’s passivity and almost propagandized tone when constantly using euphemisms through terms like ‘donation’. Therefore, the past can be used by the characters as a coping mechanism that prevents her from facing the dark reality of her complicity in her friend's death as well as the other donors. Similarly, this idea is also presented through Amanda's resolution to financially secure her family as well as to provide “provisions”.

In contrast, characters in both novels may also experience contrasting attitudes towards their past ambitions. It’s clear through Kathy’s remark, “I won’t be a carer I’ll welcome the chance to rest - to stop and think and remember” She clarifies that her eagerness in aspiration to contemplate the future now supersedes her reminiscent outlook. For instance, the subtle euphemism implied in that she ‘ welcomes the chance to rest’ voices her immense passivity at possible indoctrination.

The multiple listing also underlines the juxtaposition towards previous attitudes where Kathy was heavily drawn to her role as a carer. Like much of Ishiguro’s literature such as in ‘Remains of the Day’, the narrator ‘Steven’ experiences a great extent of control which governs his life choices. Ultimately, Ishiguro may be connoting the idea that character development occurs through contemplation of one's life. In a similar respect, Jim in ‘ The Glass Menagerie’ comes to terms with reality, grasping the sense that he won’t be able to marry Laura as he already is engaged. Here the critic Hartley comments that “The past is another country”, heavily implying its contradiction to the future aspirations of the characters.

On the other hand, it could ultimately be speculated that both texts place stronger emphasis on the suppression of individual freedom, possibly drawing reference to the idea that both the lives of Ishiguro and Williams, were extensively dictated. Many reviewers have classified both texts as ‘ distressing’ where characters are repressed through ideological measures both socially and culturally. It is thoroughly implied in ‘ Never Let Me Go’, that characters have their lives predetermined as their sole purpose is to complete the ‘donation’ process. This is made evident when the students are informed by ‘ Miss Emily’ that “their fates have been set out” for them. The reinforcement of both euphemism and figurative speech connotes deceitful motives. Therefore, it could overall be argued that the novel places stronger value on themes such as societal oppression and inequalities. Despite some similarities, it’s valid to claim that ‘The Glass Menagerie’ differs from this portrayal on the basis that it emphasizes the cultural inequality of class and gender. For instance, Amanda’s obsessive desire for Laura to find a suitor exemplifies both female dependency and inferiority, thus reinforcing the norms of patriarchal Western societies. Ideals of female entrapment are also noticeable when Amanda states, Girls that who aren’t “cut” out for business careers usually wind up “married” to some nice man. The negative connotations derived from the verb “cut”, could allude to how her life choices are ultimately restricted. Therefore, to a large extent, this perspective demonstrates greater prominence in the play than the theme of the past, as it mirrors the realism of society during this period. Here, Tony Coult’s claim that Williams doesn't write plays that are “isolated from the real world,” would ultimately support this critical viewpoint.

In conclusion, there is sufficient evidence in both texts to speculate that the ‘past is not dead’. It predominantly serves as an imperative factor in shaping the futures of characters, however, It's more comprehensible to claim that both writers convey stronger messages of social inequalities.  

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Essay on ‘Never Let Me Go’ Setting. (2024, May 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
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