Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 458

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The Knife of Never Letting Go is a dystopian/sci-fi novel by Patrick Ness that was published in 2008. To explore the themes of the story, we need to examine the characters and plot.

Todd Hewitt lives in a world full of noise. Every moment of every day, his own thoughts and feelings are projected out to the world in colors, pictures, and sounds which he refers to as "noise". Todd has never known a quiet moment. He's never been able to escape his thoughts and feelings, and it is nearly impossible for him to bury his thoughts in order to keep them unheard by the men in his colony. An inability to escape one's self—one's thoughts, feelings, and memories—for even a second is a theme of the story.

When the story begins, Todd is approaching his thirteenth birthday. He struggles with his identity and what it really means to be a man. When he meets Viola, he's sent on a journey that shows him the worst things and the best things a man can do. Coming of age is a theme of the story as well.

Davy Prentiss is one of the main antagonists of the story, along with his father, David Prentiss. When he learns from Todd's "noise" of the silent spot in the swamp, he comes after Todd, who flees town. Davy and the men of Prentisstown are on a hunt for power. Silence is the one thing the men don't have, so they'll do anything to harness it, or they will snuff it out if they can't have it. Davy fights, kills, and will stop at nothing in the pursuit of power. Power is another theme that carries through the novel and the rest of the Chaos Walking Trilogy.

Todd pursues the hope that there may be a cure for "the noise". When he's treated by a female doctor in a new colony after an injury, she tells him there may be a cure and that women are immune to the "noise germ". This gives Todd hope that one day he may be free from struggling against his "noise" and finally be at peace. Hope is another theme in the novel. Todd hopes he can stay alive long enough to be cured and that maybe a cure is truly possible.

Other themes you might consider in The Knife of Never Letting Go are isolation, friendship, life and death, manhood, community, and family. A good rule of thumb when considering theme is to look at what each character desires and chooses to act on. For Todd, his life is always in tension. He wants peace. You may look at Todd and the adjacent characters and find themes in addition to the ones I listed.

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