The Importance of the Past in Kazuo Ishiguros Never Let Me Go

Topics: Never Let Me Go

In Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, a main theme was that one should embrace and remember the good memories of the past, while still being wary and looking forward to what is to come in the unavoidable and possibly foreboding future. Through Kathy’s narration and the unavoidable fate of the clones, Ishiguro shows that although the future may be unavoidable, one can always remember and think fondly of the past.

As Never Let Me Go is not chronologically written, a large portion of the novel is, in fact, Kathy reminiscing the past.

The novel is entirely written from Kathy’s perspective, and therefore is saturated with feelings that Kathy has felt previously, and previous thoughts as well. One such example of Kathy remembering her past is the Songs After Dark cassette tape by Judy Bridgewater. The tape is one of her “most precious possessions” (Ishiguro 64). She would listen to it “driving out in the open country on a drizzly day” (Ishiguro 64).

Kathy meant this literally, but it could also be interpreted as pathetic fallacy. The weather being drizzly and/or gloomy could represent that she’s not feeling so well, her mood is quite negative. Listening to the Songs After Dark cassette tape by Judy Bridgewater could make the rain less noticeable, or lighten her mood a bit.

Another example of the theme is when Kathy was caring for a donor in her third year as a carer. At this point, she was constantly trying to repress memories of Hailsham, trying not to look back at the past anymore and instead focus on the promising future before her.

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The donor in question had just finished his third donation and it was clear he was going to pass away soon. Kathy mentioned she was from Hailsham, and the donor was shorty revitalized. His face glowed, and he said “Hailsham. I bet that was a beautiful place” (Ishiguro 5). Although eager to hear about Hailsham, he responds to questions about his own past with a grimace. The donor wants to hear about a better past of his so he can relive it himself, possibly relive it in the afterlife. His death is morbid and unavoidable, and personal memories of his past seem to not be enjoyable to reminisce on. The only way the unnamed donor can relieve himself of the frightening thoughts of his death is by creating a fake past, fake memories to remember and cherish.

Another example of the theme is when Kathy is driving. She says even now, years later, she “still [sees] things that remind her of Hailsham” (Ishiguro 6). This is after her conversations with the third donor, so she has stopped repressing memories of Hailsham. If she sees a certain arrangement of trees, a certain type of balcony, a certain size of house, she will instantly think of Hailsham. She doesn’t know where Hailsham is, but is essentially on constant lookout for it when traveling. Although Kath already has quite a few memories and stories from and about Hailsham, nothing will ever compare to being back in the place. More memories will flood into Kathy’s mind, and those already present will become more vivid. In the future, she could reminisce, laugh, and cry (as she is now).

In conclusion, Never Let Me Go is a wonderfully written novel. The British-Japanese Kazuo Ishiguro masterfully crafts characters, pasts, and memories unlike most could. Kathy’s recollections of memories (both good and bad) fully encompasses the reader into the story. Although the time ahead is unavoidable without death, one should always have their own personal Hailsham or Songs After Dark to remember in particularly bad times.

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The Importance of the Past in Kazuo Ishiguros Never Let Me Go. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from

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