The Theme of a Dystopian Society in Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1066 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020

Words: 1066|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Dystopian society in Never Let Me Go
  3. Fear of the outside world
    Constant surveillance
  4. Conclusion
  5. References


Never Let Me Go, written by Kazuo Ishiguro in 2005, is about the perspective of a female named Kathy who grows up knowing how she will die and her friends. They attend a boarding school called Hailsham that raises them from birth and are informed of their certain death by donating their organs. The book revolves around love, betrayal, and mortality between the three friends who edge closer to their depressing fate of certain death. This book used the theme of dystopia, where society is having a time of great anguish and injustice, to express how the characters and students in Hailsham are treated and have a dark future ahead of them. Ishiguro used the theme of dystopia in a society by adding elements to the story such as the fear of the outside world, they are in a dehumanized state of society, and they are under constant surveillance.

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Dystopian society in Never Let Me Go

Fear of the outside world

In Never Let Me Go, the author used theme of dystopia in a society by demonstrating the fear of the outside world. One example was Kathy having a fear of the woods outside of her home named Hailsham. She explains how a boy ran off into the woods and his body was found two days later. Another was a ghost that haunted the woods who use to be a student in Hailsham. Kathy brought up a crucial detail after she announced her fear of the woods when she said the older students were told this happened by the guardians, the teachers of Hailsham. She said,”the older students would tell us that was exactly what the guardians told them when they were younger”. This shows how the students perspective and actions were controlled by the school falsifying information to implement fear. The fear of the outside world and its effect on the students reinforces that Ishiguro exemplified a dystopian society.


Another example of how Ishiguro described a dystopian society was the dehumanized state society was in. In the beginning of the story, the characters backgrounds were not provided, such as who their parents were. They were raised in a boarding school and remained there for their whole childhood life. In Never Let Me Go, later, Kathy and Tommy find out they are clones in the end. The purpose of the clones is to donate their organs, which kills them at the end. Ruth, Tommy, and Kathy discuss how fearful the donations are because they could die from their fourth donation or even their second donation. They talked about how a friend of theirs named Chrissie who “completed (died) during her second donation”. They start to argue about how unfair it is that they have no say or anyway out of their foretold certain death. Nevertheless, the book does not explain what happened that caused the country of Britain, where the story takes place in, to raise clones only to kill and gather their organs. The clones were put into Hailsham because of the treatment clones received by actual humans and to prove that they are humane and should be treated as such. To prove they are human, the guardians have them make art to show their emotion and human qualities. Never Let Me Go clarifies how the society was living in a dehumanized state with the creation of clones and the breeding and killing of them for organs.

Constant surveillance

Ishiguro also interprets a dystopian society in Never Let Me Go, by demonstrating how the students were under constant surveillance and feared being heard by someone. Throughout the book, the characters would look over their shoulder when talking to someone about an issue or setback. Tommy and Kathy were talking about Miss Kathy, a guardian at Hailsham who later reveals to them their past, and how she was when he talked to her. Tommy, however, became nervous when talking and, based off of kathy’s words”, seemed worried about being overheard, and glanced over his shoulder”. People were watching and listening, and this incident in the book gave a clue that there was something odd and fake in the story. Another example was when Kathy and her two friends were in the Cottages, college for clones, and were talking to other students they knew. Chrissie talked about how she could not talk to Kathy and Ruth about having a three year break. Chrissie said however that “everyone is listening” and could not give this information to them. Ishiguro vocalized very well how the story takes place in a dystopian society by the fear of being watched and surveillanced in the book.

Many that read a book hope for a heroic action or happy ending to happen when a group of people are controlled by a ruler or external power that is unjust or unfair. An example is Hunger Games written by Suzzane Collins where a female character leads a rebellion against a cruel government. However, Ishiguro exemplified how in today’s world, many do not fight for change even if there is a dark future. An article brings out how different this story is compared to others such as Hunger Games by saying about the characters, “there are no dreams of escape into the woods...there is only a terrible compliance, and a slave's desperate capacity for self-delusion”. This quote considers how the characters in Never Let Me Go are in their state of mind. With their thinking process, it allows the theme of a dystopian society to easily be recognized throughout the book by having any sense of rebellion removed from the picture. Ishiguro articulates how the characters are living in a dystopian society by their own mindset and view of reality.

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In conclusion, Kazou Ishiguro exemplified the theme of a dystopian society by showing how much fear the characters had of the outside world such as the woods around their home, them living in a dehumanized society where they will all die a certain death by donating their organs, and their fear of being constantly watched and surveillanced about secrets and information that can help them. Ishiguro also expressed why he did not have the characters become rebellious and how much control the people in power had over the clones by deleting any sense of rebellion. Ishiguro wrote a fine piece of work and used the theme of a society in dystopia throughout the book.


  1. Stacy, I. (2015). Complicity in Dystopia: Failures of Witnessing in China Miéville's The City and the City and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas, 13(2), 225-250. (
  2. Lu, W. (2020). Sci-Fi Realism and the Allegory of Dystopia: With Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go as an Example. comparative literature studies, 57(4), 702-714. (
  3. PUTRIYANI, I. (2021). REPRESENTATION OF DYSTOPIAN SOCIETY IN NOVEL" NEVER LET ME GO" BY KAZUO ISHIGURO (2005) (Doctoral dissertation, KODEPT043131# SekolahTinggiBahasaAsingJIA). (
  4. Amundsen, V. E. (2015). Language and human rights in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Never Let Me Go (Master's thesis, UiT Norges arktiske universitet). (
  5. Gerritsen, J. C. (2022). " Under His Eye": The Construction of Identity and the Depiction of Femininity in Dystopian Societies in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. (
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The Theme Of A Dystopian Society In Never Let Me Go By Kazuo Ishiguro. (2023, February 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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