Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a book based on the 1970s-1990s on a young woman’s life and the complexities within the dystopian world. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a book written as a letter from the narrator to his son about his life and their navigation of being an African American man in America, the former a science fiction novel, the latter a novel. Within both books the function of love and social connection make a penetrating role and plot point and explain key functions within the storyline thus showing the importance of family and friends, as well as the importance of education and symbolic references.
Symbolic symbols and functions of these within the two books: the uses of these is to create ideas and meaning throughout the book in a hinting sense, the use of symbols within both books shows a sense of love and social connection within the intent of these such as fatherhood and the power of memories. symbolics uses within Between the World and Me the symbolic reference and has condensed and complicated meaning. Fatherhood within the book is one of the strongest themes as this book is written as a father’s open letter to his son about his life and the history behind their African American history. Fatherhood is such a strong symbol as the narrator constantly says “I want you to know”, “I taught you” as well as “I wish I could have protected you from…” all of these sentence starters and a parentally driven and protective sense of wanting to educate his child and show him how much they cared for him and all of his “backwards teaching” is for a very important reason.
The “American Dream” is used a lot like a lens of a white figure and the actions within this book, the narrator references the self-privilege and embedded racism and self-segregation still embedded in the society. The narrator identifies and makes mention of so many iconic African American figures as well as many personal stories of African American families affected by the white culture and endemic racism and police brutality and the importance of knowing this history. The strong history behind integration and the intense danger of being an African American man in a white society and the significance of Howard University in his life as it was a small location where being himself an African American was indifferent as everyone on the campus had their history and their African American heritage and culture known to him.
The symbols uses inside Never Let Me Go are a constant reference of repetition within the plot lines such as the power of memory, as the whole book is a recall of memory for the narrator Kathy H; the book in a sense is an ode to her life and tales of the donors she has helped until completion, the symbolism of completion is a creative sense of saying their duty has been fulfilled and their duty is dismissed, instead of the reality of being humans harvesting plants they use this sense of duty to give a sense of importance and self-worth.
Within Kathy and Ruth’s time at the cottages they frequently mention the “open office plan”, the use of the “open office plan” is a sense of alternative life and escape from the harsh reality ahead, and the uses of referencing it and the end of the book as Ruth, Tommy and Kathy drive past it is an effect of a conclusion for Ruth and the possibility of future/ hope for Tommy and Kathy’s blossoming relationship.
“The loophole” within Never Let Me Go is a key turning point in Tommy’s and Kathy H’s relationship, this “loophole” was a means for students at Hailsham to defer there job expectations as a career or donor for a few years if they prove that there relation is pure and they love each other, this key concept is vital on showing us the complexities and drive of love and connections within the book.
Within both books, the plot lines equally surround the education of the narrator and the complexities. Within the two books they reflect on the time of their educational life as a key movement of their life, In both narratives, we can explore the themes of education and friendships as a key role within the books, as education gives a sense of privilege and camaraderie towards the school such as the referral to “Mecca” in Coates’s book and in Ishiguro’s the constant references to Hailsham from donors Kathy worked with as a fascination.
Between the World and Me is considerably written around the importance of Howard University and education. Growing up different and the connections one has in life from this, that growing up different shows a sense of resilience and overcoming a sense of a block within society. “The Mecca” also known as Howard University is referenced as the holy grail and sense of sanctuary for an African American child. the uses of the word create the importance of it to the narrator as the cultural reference of Mecca, is a location that is people are drawn to and creates a sense of harmony, community and love within the space, a space of welcoming and uniform society, such as similar to Hailsham.
“They made us into a race, and we made ourselves into a people” (Coates) This quotation is a prime example of the complexities of the narrator’s life: within his life he grew up as a member of a minority constantly under attack due to the mention and pigment of their skin. The narrator looks upon the social inequality within the wider society but also the strong bond of community within the African American culture within Howard University. Similar another extract from the text “Be twice as good which is to say accepted half as much” and “Twice as good” (Coates 91) is an important explanation of address within the book, the narrator is addressing this novel to his son and many other young black men in society, within the open address letter he writes as if he is addressing his son and yet a wider community as well, this is an important lens as the writer has used this as a tool to connect all lenses of interpretation. Within the whole book the narrator addresses life as a black man and how his life and his friends have been different compared to white society, he talks in depth about his friend who was killed due to police brutality, young Prince Jones.
In Never Let Me Go Hailsham is a focal point within the book in which friendships and bonds surrounding the plotline of platonic love of friendships and the deep social connection grow. This is due to the people raised in the same environments such as Hailsham. Hailsham is a school from early childhood into adulthood with the transitional place of the cottages. Within the Hailsham education and boarding school friendships and social connections are divulged such as the friendships of Kathy H and Ruth, a complex yet prime example of platonic love for each other and a deep bond of friendship.
Within the strength of friendships such as Ruth and Kathy H, we see the complexities and differences of personal growth, such as their time spent at the cottages. We see a difference of maturity and behaviour between the two and the strength of the friendship bonds contesting this and still maintaining till Ruth’s completion (death). Within the Hailsham crew, the romantic evolvement of Kathy H and Tommy begins and blossoms, showing the lines between friendship and love as well as the complexities within. Towards the end of Tommy’s life, we see key values of romantic bonds and complexities.
Both are memoirs in a sense as both narrators look back upon their lives and give a sense of regret and reflect upon the what-ifs and “should haves”. Between the World and Me is written as a letter from the narrator to his son about his life and their navigation of being an African American man in America and the functions and importance of his love and the societal connections and bonds of Howard university, a souly black university as a place of acceptance and safety. Never Let Me Go plays into the complexities of Kathy H’s life and the dystopian world she lives in and the bonds of relationships and love from Tommy and her friends and the importance of Hailsham as a social bond and grounding within their life. Within the books the sense of love, family, romantic bonds as well as friendship and social bonds play such a vital function in both and contextual human life. Without these connections one would struggle and the importance of these is so vital, and it is highlighted within the texts as key and vital themes.
- Coates, Ta-Nehisi, And Klaus Amann. Between the World and Me. Reclaim, 2017.
- Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. Faber And Faber, 2020.