Never Let Me Go Themes
by Kazuo Ishiguro

Start Your Free Trial

Never Let Me Go Themes

The main themes in Never Let Me Go are ethics, acceptance, and art.

  • Ethics: Cloning and medical ethics are central to the plot of the novel, and the general population of Kathy's world is debating whether or not clones have souls—a fact that she herself assumed was obvious.
  • Acceptance: Clones are informed of their fates at an early age and are taught to accept it, which keeps them passive in the face of death and pain.
  • Art: Kathy and Tommy learn that their art was used by the Hailsham guardians to argue that clones have souls, suggesting a relationship between creativity and humanity. 


Acceptance is one of the stronger themes in Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go. It is also one of the more annoying themes, according to many critics. The theme is played out through the characters who are clones, such as Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy. Though they sometimes have questions about their existence and the roles that they play as organ donors, they accept their plight without a fight. Although Miss Emily, the head of their boarding school, and her accomplice Madame, attempt to prove that the student/clones have souls by encouraging them to produce art and then displaying it, there is no discussion about the clones' rights in making decisions about their lives. They are told they are organ donors, and the clones go along with this determination made not by themselves but the adults they look up to.

Download Never Let Me Go Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The lines between love, sex, and friendship are often blurred in Never Let Me Go . Kathy's love for Tommy blossoms at Hailsham, where students become sexually active in their teens, but Tommy dates Ruth instead. The situation is complicated by the fact that Hailsham students are confused about the school's official policy about sex. On the one hand, clones are infertile by design and so are freed from the fear of getting pregnant. On the other hand, sex is never explicitly...

(The entire section is 388 words.)