The novel’s title comes from a song on Kathy’s tape called Songs After Dark of Judy Bridgewater. Kathy used to sing and dance on the chorus: “Baby, never let me go.” On one occasion, while she was dancing and singing, she noticed Madame watching her and crying/sobbing. In the film this passage is completely different, because it is Ruth who peeps and not Madame.
I° Never Let Me Go is a science fiction novel about three friends who grow up together in England in the late 20th Century. In the novel we have few hints about placet and time, instead in the film is more evident thanks to the dates and landscapes. Kathy, Ruth and Tommy attend a particular school called Hailsham that has an unusual emphasis on encouraging physical fitness and artistic expression, so they write poetry,paint and practice various sports. In the film it’s not so explicit, however is immediatly explained who the students from Hailsham are. In the novel this is not so immediate and clear, in fact the reader understands it only from the third chapter. Another differente is that, in the book, the narrator/Kathy gives great importance to the Exchenges and Sales (in the film the director shows us only the passage with the Sales).
The Exchanges take place 4 times a year; on these occasions students interchange things made by themselfs and gain tokens. This event is very important for build up a collection of personal possessions, for relationships: because this make them dependent on each other and of corse for the creativity, to which is linked the respect and sympathy towards each other. All this event is wrapped in a hushed atmosphere. The Sales are held in a crowded and noisy atmosphere and are always preceded by rumours and feelings of excitment and hope. For the students it’s the only contact with outside and they can buy clothes, toys and other things not made by other students. It’s not so special as the guardians say and leads to a big disappointment. Furthermore in the book is well described Tommy’s bad temper and pranks.
II° In the novel this second part is widely described the relationship with the nature: walks in the fields and reading of the books on the grass, as well as the bad side of the Cottages: the freezing cold. Moreover in the film is not shown anything about Kathy’s sexual relationships.
III° In this last part is not mentioned the encounter with Laura, but is Kathy that sees by chance Ruth’s name on the computer. Moreover in the film the explanation about donations given by Miss Emily is not so clear as in the novel. In fact in the novel Tommy and Kathy learn that Hailsham was an experiment, the product of a movement founded by Madame and Miss Emily to instill a sense of humanity and morality into this ‘modern’ medicine. The art and poetry collected for the gallery was used to attempt to convey to politicians, humanitarians and the public that these were in fact real children, real humans, and that they did, in fact, have ‘souls’ and so to try to change public opinion regarding clones. However, this experiment failed because people see them only as clones and not as human beings.
Hailsham: A large strange school with a central house, several outbuildings and a large grounds. Hailsham is where the three main characters grow up and receive their education. It is run by several guardians who act as teachers and counselors. The students never leave Hailsham. Everything they need is brought in from the outside. While they are given a fairly thorough understanding of geography, the students are never told exactly where Hailsham is located. The school closes not long after the three main characters leave. The Cottages: The Cottages are a communal living establishment on an old English farmstead. At the age of sixteen, the three main characters leave Hailsham and go to live at the Cottages until they begin their training to become carers. The Cottages are cared for by a gruff man named Keffers. Norfolk: A city on the English coast, Norfolk is the site of a visit by the three main characters.
• Kathy, the protagonist and narrator of the story. As a young child, Kathy is free-spirited, kind, loving, and stands up for what is right. At the end of the novel, Kathy is a young woman who doesn’t show much emotion when looking back on her past. As an adult, she criticizes people less and accepts whatever happens to her and her friends. • Tommy, a young boy with a bad temper, gets tricks played on him by the other children because they want to get a reaction out of him. He starts out having bad temper tantrums when he gets picked on, until Miss Lucy, a Hailsham Guardian, tells him something that changes his life for the better for a period of time: it is okay if he’s not creative. He feels great relief. Then one day, Miss Lucy tells him that she shouldn’t have said what she did, and Tommy goes through another transformation, once again feeling fundamentally upset by his lack of artistic skills. He becomes a quiet and sad teenager. As he matures, Tommy becomes a young man who is calm and thoughtful.
• Ruth, a young girl at Hailsham, is described by the narrator as being very bossy at the beginning of the novel. She has a lot of hope for her future and thinks that she will be able to become something other than an organ donor. However, her hopes are crushed as she realizes that she was born to be an organ donor and has no other future. Towards the middle of the novel, Ruth undergoes a transformation to become a more aware, thoughtful person who thinks about things in depth. She is constantly trying to fit in and be mature, often repudiating things from her past if she perceives that it won’t look cool. Thus she threw away her entire collection of art by fellow students, despite it being her prize possession, because she sensed that the older kids at The Cottages looked down on it. She becomes an adult who is not happy with her life. Ruth eventually gives up on all of her hopes and dreams and tries to help Kathy and Tommy have a better life.
• Madame, a woman who visits Hailsham to pick up the children’s artwork, is a mystery to the children. She seems distant and forbidding. When the children decide to play a prank on her and swarm around her to see what she will do, they are shocked to discover that she seems disgusted by them. Madame is a character who acts very professional and stern.
• Miss Emily, headmistress of Hailsham, can be very sharp according to Kathy. The children thought she had an extra sense in that they thought she was able to know where a child was if he or she was hiding.
• Miss Lucy, another teacher at Hailsham, is a teacher that the children feel comfortable talking to. She is one of the younger teachers at Hailsham, and tells the students very frankly that they exist only for organ donation. She feels a lot of stress while at Hailsham and is fired for what she tells the students.
Themes: Conformity –no rebellion, willful ignorance, free will- students unable to ch’ange their fates and hope.
Opinion: What puzzles and annoys the reader is that it takes about two thirds of the novel to fully get what carers and donors are, but except for this, in general the book is very touching. In my opinion the author deals with questions of loss and mortality that each of us eventually confront. As we get older, as we lose our friends and family, as the environment around us changes and things once familiar to us disappear or become unfamiliar. This feature of the novel makes everybody closer in some way to the characters. At the same time one of the main themes is also the free will. This theme made me think a lot, particularly about how we are lucky being able to choose freely and having our destinies in our own hands. This novel leaves you also with curiosity about organs that clones can donate (we are only told that they are 4) and with the question: why don’t they simply run away and begin a new life, but accept passively their destiny?
Courtney from Study Moose
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