The Novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Last Updated: 04 Jan 2023
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Love, by simple definition, is an intense feeling of deep affection but to humanity love is something much more significant and powerful than its simple definition suggests. Love is a force strong enough to last over vast distances and time, inspire some of history‘s greatest moments, and separate humanity from the rest of the natural world. It is a subject that is popularized in nearly every platform of human expression including many novels. One such novel that incorporates a theme of love within its plot is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. In his novel, lshiguro tells a story of a small group of friends, bound by their rearing at a mysterious boarding school and shared destiny to live and die with the sole purpose of being organ donors. Although love may not be the central theme of the story, it still has a significant role in the plot Ishiguro demonstrates many examples of agape (brotherly love) and philia (friendship between equals) through the interactions of his characters, most notably between Kathy (the narrator) and her closest friend Ruth.

The most prevalent of all the types of love represented in the story is that of agape or brotherly/sisterly love. The earliest indications of this come early in the book with Kathy’s recollection of how she became friends with Ruth, who becomes her closet friend. The significance of Ruth’s friendship is alluded to by the fact that it is one of Kathy‘s earliest memories that she shares with the reader (lshiguro 45). Kathy’s true affection for Ruth is revealed in a memory about a club called the secret guard which was formed by Ruth and aimed at failing an imaginary plot to capture one of the Guardians named Miss Geraldine. After a dispute, Kathy is ousted from the club and is confronted by another former member about the secret guard‘s legitimacy.

Although Kathy believes that the club is nothing more than a fantasy, she argues that the club is legitimate, which is a clear example of her unconditional affection and support of her best friend Ruth Ruth’s character is not portrayed as overly affectionate in comparison to Kathy, but one event in the story exemplifies Ruth’s true affection for Kathy, Kathy’s love is reciprocated by the otherwise calculating. Ruth later when Kathy loses her favorite cassette tape (Ishiguro 75). Ruth understands how much the tape meant to Kathy, and tries to comfort her by gifting her another cassette. Kathy‘s reaction to Ruth’s simple act of love is best expressed by her narration given describing the event: “I still have it now I don‘t play it much because the music has nothing to do with anything It’s an object, like a brooch or a ring and especially now that Ruth is gone, it’s become one of my most precious possessions”.

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Although powerful representation of agape is present between Kathy and Ruth, it is by far not the only example of love given in the books. Throughout her narration, Kathy builds an image of love and kinship between her and other Hailsham students. The kinship between Kathy and her Hailsham companions is an excellent representation of philia (friendship between equals) Kathy’s memories always center on her involvement with Hailsham students, even when characters outside of the Hailsham social circle are introduced (Ishiguro 124) Her true feelings of affection for and attachment to her Hailsham crew are expressed during her recollection of her experiences at the cottages (housing that Kathy and other Hailsham students went to after Hailsham): “But then again, when I think about it, there‘s a sense in which that picture of us on the first day, huddled together in front of the farmhouse, isn’t so incongruous after all.

Because maybe, in a way, we didn‘t leave it behind nearly as much as we might once have thoughts. Because somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed like that: fearful of the world around us, and- no matter how much we despised ourselves for it- unable to quite let each other go.” This memory clearly shows a close bond between the Hailsham students. In Kathy’s eyes, her friends at Hailsham seem as a comforting source of love in a new and scary worldt Because Kathy and the other Hailsham students have been confined to Hailsham for their entire childhoods, it is only natural that their closest friendships would have emerged from the members of the group. The loving bond between Hailsham's students may be the most overt example of philia in the novel, but another form of philia is presented later not involving Hailsham friend.

An example of philia presents itself late in the book after Tommy has given donations and Kathy has become his carer. Towards the end of his life, Tommy seems to identify more with other donors instead of his past with Kathy and Hailsham (Ishiguro 276). This transition in Tommy’s behavior and example of philia between Tommy and other donors is best described by Kathy during one of her visits when she recalls: there was something about the way these donors had arranged themselves in a rough semi—circle, something about their poses, almost studiedly relaxed, whether standing or sitting, as though to announce to the world how much each one of them was savoring the company, that reminded me of the way our little gang used to sit around our pavilion together.

This example of philia addresses not only the changes in Tommy before his death but also reveals Kathy’s nostalgia for her beloved Hailsham crew of the pastt Love is a powerful force that bonds people together and shapes individuals lives. Love’s power is apparent in both the realms of reality and fantasy, Kazuo Ishiguro ties the tryng lives of his characters together by love in his novel Never Let Me Go. Throughout the story, Kathy, Ruth, and the other l-Hailsham students are connected through time by a lingering sense of love in the memory of the story‘s narrator, Kathy H. Although love may not exist as the main theme of the story, its presence acts as an important reminder of why we love in the first place. It seems that Ishiguro may be encouraging his readers to understand the evils of the world we live in, and use love as means to deal with it. If an individual can cling to love as Kathy does, perhaps he or she has a shot at understanding the complicated meaning of this little thing we call life.

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The Novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. (2023, Jan 03). Retrieved from

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