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The Ideas Of Change And Loss In Never Let Me Go

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The dystopian scientific novel written by Kazuo Ishiguro serves as a testament to the power of memory. Throughout the novel, the protagonist Kathy confronts her life’s losses by preserving her memories of her life at Hailsham and friends Tommy and Ruth after their death. Through the use of the first person from the perspective of Kathy whose life takes place over three parts, Hailsham, The Cottage and Norfolk are the three significant locations where she experiences different forms of loss from a personal perspective.The Characters growth plants the themes of Loss, Perils of Friendship and Identity. During the clones’ young life they are bound to Hailsham, their home and exclusive boarding school. From a young age each clone has a prevailing fear of life beyond the fences as their “guardians” and peers imbue an undying dread to prevent anyone from leaving the property of Hailsham.

Throughout the novel, the characters experience different forms of loss. One of the most intense forms of loss is control. All the characters are forced to grasp the concept that their life is determined by the likes of another person and there is no exception. There is a somberful acception of the loss of control of one’s own life in the novel. When Kathy sees Tommy to his “completion”, only then she comes to terms with her life’s path. The deaths of prominent characters in the novel depict how loss is a part of each clones consciousness. The euphemism in the word “complete” used by Kathy is to aid the attempt to disguise themselves from their foreseeable future. The emotional turmoil experienced by the clones presents an ethical dilemma, because we are able to understand that clones experience emotions, making them almost identical to humans. By presenting clones with emotion, Ishiguro questions human choices and the dispute of ethical choices of creating clones to eventually kill

In the novel, Ishiguro portrays how the loss of the clones control and choices regarding their body by italicizing the loss of organs which is the reality of the clones everyday lives. In chapter eighteen Kathy expresses the difficulty of being a carer and the emotional torment she goes through. Ruth, and Tommy experience. Each clone experiences loss in every form of their lives on the earth from certain attachments towards Hailsham, the Cottages and Norfolk. The clones attachments towards their past lives depict how they are unable to establish their legitimate connections due to their predetermined futures having already been chosen. During Kathy’s course of reminiscing about her past, her sense of longing often dates back to Hailsham, “ I can remember us back in the Juniors, pleading with guardians to hold the lesson in the pavilion instead of the usual room.” Kathy’s memories of Hailsham are only fond, because it reminds her of the time when her life was somewhat consistent, and when all her friends had not left her yet.

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Ishiguro begins to use the protagonist Kathy, being a carer as a way to depict her losses on many different fronts. In chapter 23 Kathy is aware of her losses, when she admits to her memory fading. However she refused and stated “I was talking to one of my donors a few days ago who was complaining about how memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t see them fading. I lost Ruth, then I lost Tommy, but I won’t lose my memories of them” In Ishiguro’s attempt to humanise Kathy he proves that the clones are capable of emotion. Their consistent loss in friends, relationships and locations is a loss which they experience and recognize. After her recognition of her experiences of life changing all she can attempt to do is comfort herself.

In the novel Ishiguro uses settings as a way to explore the changes of loss. When the clones were living in Hailsham, their life was consistent. During this novel Kathy grapples with the loss of Ruth and Tommy reflecting on her compound relationships. Her memories become the only link to her past, Hailsham. This is why her memories are so dear to her. During Kathy’s confrontation of her past in Hailsham, Ishiguro sets a somber tone during her reflection of the past. After the clones leave Hailsham, they are only able to be fond of the school. However haunting the guardians and other students made it to be, they cherished their “home”. When the clones move to the Cottages they meet the “veterans” the older carers. During this time, they spend their time discussing literature, philosophy but their life becomes less urgent. Ishiguro uses the “veterans” in the Cottages to mimic how couples behave in television shows. Unintentionally, Kathy begins adopting the same characteristics.

Kathy appears to be young and in her prime to the reader. However, she is almost at the end of the night, and has lost every part of her past, and the only thing she has left is her memories. Ishiguro uses the whole novel as a way to depict a person’s losses through the use of memory. Each character in the book uses their memories as a way to deflect their losses in their life before their inevitable death. Through humanizing clones, Ishiguro attempts to make the reader empathize with the characters as they desire referrals from their donors as a temporary fix for their life to last longer. The characters in the novel also experience a loss on an emotional level. Kathy describes “sex at the Cottages seems a bit functional”. The use of the word functional leads us to believe that the lack of emotion associated with physical connection, especially an act such as sex which humans experience for pleasure, love, lust and admiration which the clones aren’t able of grasping. They lack the emotional connection that humans are able to have, because all clones are infertile Ishiguro plays on how they are unable to access affection. They lack the emotional connection that one would be able to have if fertile due to not having children; they struggle to harness their passion or love for eachother.

The reality of loss is so intrinsic in the clones’ life that in certain instances they aren’t aware of the multitude of losses that they face, they live their whole life knowing they are working for their death, in secluded areas where nobody knows who they are. Norfolk and the Cottages hide them from the real world and an experience of a normal life. They are oblivious to what they are sheltered from. Ultimately the notion of loss is surrounded by the characters in the book through every aspect of their short life. Due to their predetermined lives they have no other option than to cope with it or be unaware of their quiet short lived life.

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The Ideas Of Change And Loss In Never Let Me Go. (2021, September 03). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“The Ideas Of Change And Loss In Never Let Me Go.” Edubirdie, 03 Sept. 2021,
The Ideas Of Change And Loss In Never Let Me Go. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Sept. 2023].
The Ideas Of Change And Loss In Never Let Me Go [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 03 [cited 2023 Sept 25]. Available from:
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