Two central motifs in Never Let Me Go are art and music. In navigating themes of death, innocence, and eternal recurrence, Ishiguro illustrates how creativity embodies the practice of the soul exercising itself. Perhaps most significantly, Tommy’s art created throughout his time at Hailsham heavily mirrors his complex emotions; as...
Two central motifs in Never Let Me Go are art and music. In navigating themes of death, innocence, and eternal recurrence, Ishiguro illustrates how creativity embodies the practice of the soul exercising itself. Perhaps most significantly, Tommy’s art created throughout his time at Hailsham heavily mirrors his complex emotions; as he recounts, “hings like pictures, poetry, all that kind of stuff, [Miss Emily] said they revealed what you were like inside” (175).
When Tommy and Kath go to the Madame’s house to seek a deferral, she confirms this intent but with the emphasis that “We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or, to put it more finely, we did to prove you had souls at all” (260). Ishiguro, however, endeavors to portray that these clones do indeed have souls; the emotional characteristics seen through in their art exemplify their humanity.
Furthermore, Ishiguro explores music as a motif to illustrate its function as a lasting representation of timeless innocence. An illuminating example is the image of Kath dancing to “Never Let Me Go” as a child. Madame explains to Kath how watching her dance to that song—as a person responsible for her eventual expiration through organ donations—made her feel, realizing the weight of the “harsh, cruel world” which she has been complicit in implementing:
I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to her breast the old world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go. (272)
As illustrated in this quote, this novel examines the anxiety revolving around society’s devolvement when humans exchange empathy for technology’s allure, which feels resonant when Kath’s friends turn to corpses. Ishiguro paints a tragic reality in this passage by stressing Madame’s hopeless attitude towards humanity’s fate. On the other hand, however, the song’s message—and title of the novel—serves as an enduring, eternal thread solidified by the friendships between Kath, Ruth, and Tommy, because, in Kath’s words, they are “unable quite to let each other go.”