The Relationship Between Creator and Creation in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Novel Never Let Me Go

Last Updated: 04 Jan 2023
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In Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel Never Let Me Go, the relationship between creator and creation is non-existent as the clones do not know where they came from or who they were modeled after. The novel ties up the loose ends regarding the nature of the clones and their purpose for living, though lshiguro, in my opinion, neglects to detail the process of creation in order to show that their lack of a known creator is part of the reason the clones question their self-worth and purpose in life. Without knowledge of where they‘re from or who they‘re modeled after, the clones look for pieces of their own identity through individuals they are supposedly modeled after, their possibles. In addition to lacking a sense of true identity, the absence of knowledge regarding their creator, and where their roots lie, leads to a concealed and unhealthy relationship that breeds a subordinate dynamic with the guardians in the novel.

“My name is Kathy H, l’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years" (lshiguro 3) is how lshiguro’s Never Let Me Go begins, with the main character and narrator, Kathy, telling the reader about herself. After introducing herself, Kathy tells us about her profession rather than her upbringing. This is because we come to find out Kathy is a clone, doesn’t have a family, or even a last name for that matter, instead just a single letter H. By starting the novel this way, lshiguro is introducing and placing importance on the fact that she does not have a last name, which suggests from the outset that this character is “different," in some manner, and this idea of being different and grappling with that fact is prominent throughout the novel. It’s also fitting that her profession is the first thing she mentions about herself, as her role in the donation process is the reason she was brought into this world, and for the clones.

their position as a donor or carer is all they know in life, as the only path they have to follow is that which is laid out by the guardians. Without knowledge of their creator, possible or last name, it’s difficult for the clones to truly form their own identity, as one’s ancestors and immediate family are usually at the basis of identity formation. This is evidenced through their fascination with, and desire to meet their possibles, as they believe they may find a missing piece of themselves through the humans they were modeled afterr. This sentiment is captured through Kathy, as she notes that though some may reject the moral association with a possible, at some point “all of us, to varying degrees, believed that when you saw the person you were copied from, you’d get some insight into who you were deep down”.

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This quote not only shows that the clones lack a true understanding of themselves and who they are “deep down,” but it also shows that they believe they can find a missing piece of their identity through the mold that their creator used to produce them. Though there is agreement over the existence of a model, the nature of the models and their position in society is a point of argument among the clones, as Ruth states “We all know it. We’re modeled from trash,” (lshiguro 166) a belief that shows that even the clones that tend to conform to societal standards and beliefs, such as Ruth, possess a pessimistic outlook on who they are modeled after. Though she believed they were modeled after the bottom—feeders of society, she possessed the same belief, or hope, as many others did that they were at least modeled after someone.

The reason for this is that at a primitive level, individuals, even clones, desire the love and guidance that a parent figure provides, guidance that is at the foundation of an individual‘s growth and identity formation.  Some individuals such as Tommy believed that “our models, what they were like, that’s nothing to do with us," (lshiguro 15A) and though this may be partially because of his rebellious nature, it shows that some Hailsham students did not believe they were modeled after any one at all, which would point to the reality that their existence has no more meaning than to provide for and ultimately die for their creator. The fact that the clones don’t know their creator, but rather only know their role in his system is the ultimate indication that their value and worth is based on their physical rather than moral contributions to society, which creates an uncomfortable and unequal dynamic between the clones and their human counterpart.

The relationship between the guardians and clones is the closest thing to a mentor or parent-like rapport in the novel, though will never be that because of the mutually understood difference between human nature and clone life in the novel. The difference I‘m speaking about can be seen in the clones’ belief that “there are people out there, like Madame, who don‘t hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you-of how you were brought into this world (Ishiguro 36)”. This sentiment is not universal, though the mutually known, natural unease surrounding their inception makes it difficult for the humans to embrace the clones as equals, and the clones to truly relate to their human counterpart. Though it is not a natural bond, the clones want some type of fundamentally human relationship, as they dream of having a “guardian or other bending the rules and doing something special for [them],” something as simple as “a spontaneous hug, a secret letter, a gift," though this relationship is implausible as the guardians can’t feel the same way because they know that the relationship is artificial, one-sided, and secretive.

Their desire to have this connection with the guardians is largely because they don‘t have a relationship with their creator, and lack both the connection and role-model that is usually found in a parent. This novel points out two social narratives, one that individuals are treated differently if they are considered less than human in some regard in the novel and the real world, as well as the fact that humans are treated differently if we don’t know their creator or origin, such is the case with orphaned children. In the novel, we a see a divide between the clones and the “normals” in a very distinct manner. This separation leads the clones to question their existence and purpose in life, and the humans to either see the clones as human, with a purpose and identity, or as a sub» human species, solely serving the purpose of donating organs to the humans. In our world, individuals that are different, for example those individuals who have chronic illnesses that others may contract are considered less than human by many because of the stigmas surrounding the disease and how it is spread.

Society either subconsciously or consciously evaluates these individuals and distinguishes them into their own category of abnormality Susan Sontag points out the stigmas surrounding illness and how it alters one’s identity in her essay AIDS and Its Metaphors, as she states that cancer or AIDS gives patients “a new identity, which turns the patient into one of them”(Sontag 126). In italicizing “them,“ Sontag is arguing that an unwanted identity can be given to a patient, an identity that carries negative and uncomfortable stigmas with it In the context of Ishiguro’s novel, we see Tommy confront challenges similar to those that cancer patients must deal with, as he attempts to reject the identity that being a “donor," gives him by always staying fully clothed in an attempt to not “be like a patient" (Ishiguro 238). Sontag, because of the associations that a disease such as cancer casts on one’s identity, labels the sickness as “a creator of spoiled identity”.

In mentioning the word “donor”, it is implied that Tommy is a clone, and consequently is viewed as sub—human. In this respect, the word donor serves the same purpose as the word cancer, as the words alone and the associations that come with them lead individuals to be treated differently In the case of orphaned children, they are often seen by society as different because they lack a known “creator,” or parent. The guardians keep the reality of the clones’ situation secret in order to let them live a meaningful life and in doing so create their own identity, which is similar to the secrecy that we see in the way many foster parents handle telling their adopted children. The larger point I’m making is that both guardians and foster parents attempt to temporarily mask the reality of the situation so that their identity can be formed on self-exploration and discovery without the shadow of the unknown looming over their heads. Though it’s clear that the lack of knowledge surrounding their creation or creator makes the clones question their identity, Ishiguro, by means of the deferral process suggests that relationships are what truly matter in the creation of our identity.

After being denied the deferral, it’s clear that creativity isn‘t necessary in finding meaning in life, but rather it‘s up to the clones to create their own identity. In saying that their identity is formed through personal meaning, the claim is being made that the clones’ relationship with their creator and the guardians isn’t essential in forming their own identity. Though I agree that personal meaning and experiences should be emphasized more in identity formation, in following this logic we are saying that the clones’ roots, or lack thereof, shouldn’t influence their view of themselves or their relationship with others, which we’ve seen to be untrue in the imbalanced dynamic with the guardians. Though it is clear there is another way of looking at identity formation in the novel, the lack of a known creator or model makes the clones not only question their identity, but leads them to have to live in the future as their past is unclear, and their presence is full of relationships that are structured by a system that uses them to benefit others.

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The Relationship Between Creator and Creation in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Novel Never Let Me Go. (2023, Jan 03). Retrieved from

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