What is the effect of using unreliable narration in Never Let Me Go? What are other important narrative devices?

Using unreliable narration has several effects in Never Let Me Go. As both the protagonist and the first-person narrator, Kathy offers a singular perspective through the entire text. A positive effect of this singularity is to give the reader a deep understanding of this central character. The unreliability includes her focus on the past, so her memories may not be accurate. Examining events through her eyes also limits the information the reader receives about the clones’ situation.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Throughout Never Let Me Go, Kathy is an appealing protagonist whose predicament stimulates the reader’s empathy. As she reflects on her life and those of her fellow clones, including her closest friends, the reader gradually learns how dark and limited their existence is. The reader gains a deep understanding of how this particular character understands her identity, including positive and negative aspects of growing up.

The author’s decision to make her both the protagonist and the first-person narrator also makes Kathy’s narrative inherently unreliable. There is no neutral, third-person omniscient voice to provide another perspective, fill in missing information, or correct any errors she might make. As Kathy writes about the childhood years that she, Ruth, and Tommy spent at Hailsham, her vision is colored by nostalgia. The reader cannot know if those memories are accurate or even if she is telling the truth.

A complex effect of using a single narrator is that the author carefully doles out bits of information about the dystopian society the clones inhabit. For example, the reader initially shares her vision of the institution where they are confined as a regular school, and then understands that she has no other frame of reference as to how other children live. The gradually dawning awareness adds an element of horror to the text.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team