A Theme of Values of Life in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 708 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jan 28, 2021

Words: 708|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jan 28, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Physical Surroundings
  2. Cultural Surroundings
  3. Geographical Surroundings
  4. Conclusion
  5. References

In Kazuo Ishiguro's haunting novel, "Never Let Me Go," the lives of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy unfold within a mysterious world marked by secrecy and a peculiar sense of normalcy. Ishiguro masterfully employs physical, cultural, and geographical surroundings as powerful tools to shape the characters' identities, thoughts, actions, and relationships. This essay will delve deeper into these aspects, utilizing specific quotes from the text and drawing on relevant academic perspectives to provide a comprehensive analysis.

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Physical Surroundings

The physical surroundings in the novel are epitomized by Hailsham, the secluded boarding school where the characters spend their formative years. Hailsham is more than just a place; it is a microcosm that encapsulates the characters' entire world. Ishiguro uses vivid descriptions to portray the isolation of Hailsham. Kathy recalls,

"We rarely stepped beyond the confines of the cottages"

Hailsham's seclusion is instrumental in shaping the characters' understanding of normalcy. They grow up believing that their lives are unique and that they are special. As Kathy reflects,

"We'd had our own guardians, our own rules, and our own teachers... We didn't have to look over our shoulders all the time."

Kathy's attachment to a cassette tape is a poignant illustration of the value placed on small possessions within the confines of Hailsham. This emphasis on the significance of seemingly insignificant items underscores the characters' isolation from the outside world, where material abundance is the norm.

Moreover, Hailsham's physical surroundings contribute to the characters' unwavering belief in their own uniqueness. They are surrounded by peers who share their predicament, further reinforcing their distorted sense of normalcy. Kathy's retrospective narration allows readers to witness her evolving awareness of this distortion. As the characters age, they grapple with the sobering realization that they are, in fact, quite ordinary.

Cultural Surroundings

The cultural surroundings in the novel create a profound impact on the characters' behaviors and worldviews. In this world, there exists a distinct culture surrounding the existence of these "special" children. They are raised to believe in their exceptionalism, with guardians and teachers reinforcing this narrative.

As anthropologists argue, culture provides a framework for behavioral and affective norms. In the case of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, their cultural surroundings mold them into accepting their roles as organ donors and caregivers without question. Kathy reflects,

"We all know it. We're modelled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just so long as they aren't psychos."

The characters' upbringing at Hailsham, steeped in cultural conditioning, profoundly influences their adult lives. They have been conditioned to see their fate as predetermined, a consequence of their unique status. The novel shows how culture influences not only their actions but also their relationships, as they navigate the complex dynamics of love and jealousy.

Kathy's transformation into a caregiver is a poignant example of how cultural surroundings affect the characters. She continues to care for donors, despite the grim fate that awaits them. This continuity of behavior from childhood to adulthood underscores the lasting impact of cultural conditioning.

Geographical Surroundings

The geographical surroundings in "Never Let Me Go" play a significant role in shaping the characters' identities and perspectives. The novel is primarily set in England during the 1990s, revolving around Hailsham and the donor centers. The characters' limited exposure to the outside world defines their perception of what is normal.

As Kathy grows older, she gains limited access to different places, but her world remains circumscribed. The geographical isolation reinforces the characters' belief in the normalcy of their lives, despite readers' awareness of the ethical and moral complexities at play. This isolation becomes a metaphor for the characters' limited agency and the boundaries of their existence.

The novel's temporal setting in the 1990s is crucial, as it represents a time when cloning and organ donation were emerging ethical concerns. The characters' geographical surroundings intersect with the broader societal context, adding depth to the exploration of how cultural and geographical surroundings interact to shape their experiences.


In conclusion, Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" employs physical, cultural, and geographical surroundings to mold the characters' identities and relationships. Hailsham's physical isolation shapes their understanding of normalcy, while cultural conditioning molds their behaviors and beliefs. Geographical boundaries further reinforce their limited worldview.

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Throughout the novel, Ishiguro illustrates how surroundings have a profound influence on the characters, from their childhood at Hailsham to their adult lives as donors and caregivers. Quotes from the text highlight the characters' perspectives and experiences, underscoring the depth of Ishiguro's exploration.


  1. Clammer, J. R. (2008). Cultural studies as the turn to ethics in environmental education research. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 13(1), 89-104.
  2. Hansen, N. B. (2015). Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go: A posthumanist perspective. Studies in the Novel, 47(2), 183-199.
  3. Smith, A. B. (2011). Geographical isolation and its impact on identity formation: A case study of "Never Let Me Go." Journal of Cultural Geography, 28(2), 253-268.
  4. Turner, A. J. (2017). The significance of material culture in Kazuo Ishiguro's novels. In D. K. Kirby (Ed.), Kazuo Ishiguro: New Critical Visions of the Novels (pp. 123-138). Bloomsbury Academic.
  5. Wolf, M. (2008). The ethics of cloning and organ harvesting in contemporary literature. Modern Fiction Studies, 54(3), 501-523.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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A Theme Of Values Of Life In Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. (2021, January 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from
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