Never Let Me Go Summary
by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Never Let Me Go Summary

Never Let Me Go is a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro in which protagonist Kathy lives in a dystopian world where human clones are bred as organ donors.

  • Kathy has been raised, as all clones are, with the knowledge that she will someday have her organs harvested.
  • After graduating from Hailsham, a school for clones, Kathy and her friends are moved to "the Cottages," where they begin donating.
  • Kathy becomes a "carer," a clone who gives support and counseling to other clones. As a carer, Kathy lives longer than her friends, and she watches them all "complete," or give their final donation before death.

Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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Never Let Me Go tranquilly opens with thirty-one-year-old Kathy H., a “carer” for “donors” who will mysteriously “complete,” that is, die, who is about to become a donor herself. Kathy seizes this moment to relate her apparently idyllic childhood at the boarding school of Hailsham, England. In the polite, reserved tone typical of Ishiguro’s first-person narrators, Kathy tells of her youth and that of her friends, cocky Ruth and misfit Tommy, who interact with a cast of fellow pupils at this apparently everyday upscale British institution. The reader of Never Let Me Go quickly realizes that there is a dark mystery at the root of Kathy’s recollection. Soon, the reader learns that Kathy lives in a dystopian alternate world where clones are raised to be harvested for their organs until they “complete” (die), generally after their fourth “donation.” The casual use of these euphemistic terms for barbarous acts is a strong motif of the novel.

The novel has a particularly haunting quality because Kathy, like all of her peers, quietly accepts the strange life for which they are being groomed. The title refers to Kathy’s favorite song at Hailsham. It is sung by a fictional woman singer, whom Kathy imagines is tightly holding on to her baby—a poignant fantasy, as all clones are infertile.

After graduating from Hailsham, Kathy and some of her peers are moved to the Cottages, where they live somewhat aimless lives. Ruth and Tommy become lovers while Kathy, who also loves Tommy, looks on. Their destiny catches up with them when “donations” of organs begin. Kathy cares for Ruth, a “donor,” who “completes” (dies). With Tommy next in line, he and Kathy realize their love and visit their former teacher, Madame, and Miss Emily, the headmistress of Hailsham. Miss Emily reveals the truth behind the cloning program. She also states that Hailsham was...

(The entire section is 533 words.)