How does the title of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro apply to specific characters in it? For two female characters in the novel, this phrase means different things. Identify these characters...

How does the title of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro apply to specific characters in it? For two female characters in the novel, this phrase means different things. Identify these characters and explain what “never let me go” means to each of them.

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novel, the two main female characters are Kathy and Ruth. For both characters, the phrase "never let me go" means different things.

For Kathy (especially in her adult years), the phrase is a reminder of her inherent humanity. We discover that Kathy took a liking to the song "Never Let Me Go" when she was still a child. At that young age, Kathy mistakenly believed that the song was about a woman who eventually managed to fulfill her dream of having a baby. She relates that Madame sobbed when the latter spied her singing to the song and rocking a pillow as if it was a baby. Years later, Kathy learns that clones will never marry and never have children. Yet the song reminds her that being a clone does not detract from her humanity. As a clone, Kathy still nourishes very human hopes in her heart. She is capable of falling in love (as is evidenced by her feelings for Tommy), and she is capable of forming meaningful relationships with others.

The song also reminds Kathy of Ruth, a fellow clone from Hailsham. Although both women are competitors for Tommy's affection, the women eventually make their peace with each other before Ruth's death (or, euphemistically, before Ruth "completes"). So, to Kathy, the phrase "never let me go" is a reminder of her inherent humanity and the stark fragility of life for all clones.

As for Ruth, the phrase means something entirely different. Initially, Ruth sabotages any chance of Kathy having a relationship with Tommy. She works hard to hold on to a relationship that's all wrong for her because she can't bear the idea of relinquishing Tommy to a girl like Kathy. To Ruth, having Tommy as a boyfriend reinforces her sense of self. We learn that Ruth never makes it past her second donation; in fact, most donors never make it to their fourth donation. To Ruth, the phrase encapsulates her desperate yearning for life and for normality in the face of dysfunction.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For Ruth, the title could refer to the idea of seeking to live a "normal" life.  Ruth's hopes reside in working in an office building, being able to wield power, and establishing a position of respect, apart from what she is as a clone.  This might be what she wishes to "never let go."  In Ruth's case, the "me" is the dream, and she holds to it, believing passionately in it.  In her mirroring others' actions, one can see how Ruth seeks to hold on to her dream and through it, she never lets go.  I think for Kathy the title would refer to the idea of emotional happiness and the role she has as a "carer."  She never lets go the idea of being able to be there for people and helping to alleviate their suffering and pain.  While Tommy might have had a sexual relationship with Ruth, he is only able to share his feelings and experience reciprocity in them with Kathy.  It is through this display of love and affection that both of them never let go their feelings of hope in seeking to be liberated from their condition in proving their love to one another.  I think that the idea of "Never Let Me Go" would apply to Kathy when talking about hope and the idea that happiness and redemption can be present in the most dire of conditions.

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