Concept of Humanity in Never Let Me Go

Categories: Dystopia Kathy Ruth

Humanity is a word that describes the qualities of being human, such as the desire of knowing where they came from, the desire not to harm another living thing, dreams of the future, feelings of compassion, empathy, and love for others, and using memories to cope with loss. The clones in the science fiction novel, Never Let Me Go, by British author Kazuo Ishiguro are human shown through Ruth’s desire to see or meet her possible when given the once in a lifetime chance.

The carers in the novel are shown to be highly affected when one of their donors completes, and they have dreams other than becoming carers or donors, shown through Kathy’s imagination.

The empathy and love Kathy and Tommy show for each other from Kathy helping Tommy when they were children to Tommy telling Kathy first about his secret art shows their human aspects. Finally, Kathy’s use of her memories of Ruth, Tommy, and Hailsham to cope with her feelings of loss show that the clones in the novel are human.

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The desire to know where a person comes from or who they are is part of being human, shown through the parallels of people’s desire to meet their birth family if they are adopted. Ruth must have seen an once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the person who she was created from when Chrissie and Rodney tell her they saw someone who, “‘they reckon… is a possible. For [Ruth]’” (Ishiguro 139).

When Ruth first tells Kathy that she may have found her possible, she seems reluctant to confirm what Chrissie and Rodney told her.

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It’s as if she thinks she says anything out loud, everything would get ruined and she wouldn’t be able to meet her possible. It is likely that very few, if any, clones have ever been able to meet or see their possibles so it may be hard for Ruth to believe that she is getting the chance to see hers. Ruth is both apprehensive and excited about interacting with her model, similar to how humans who are adopted feel when they meet their birth parents. Kathy states that while the students talked about possibles, “no one could agree what [they] were looking for when [they] looked for possibles… thought [they] should be looking for a person twenty to thirty years older… the sort of age a parent would be” (Ishiguro 139).

The students imagine that their possibles would be akin to a parent. They desire to know where they came from, and who they are modeled after. Again, they are similar to children who were adopted and are learning their original identity. The five of them go on a road trip to Norfolk to see Ruth’s possible, and Kathy described them as all, “talking excitedly at once. Except for Ruth… who remained silent in the middle of it. It was hard to read her face… she certainly wasn’t disappointed, but then she wasn’t elated either” (Ishiguro 159). Ruth seemed to not know what she was going to do if this woman turned out to be her possible. Throughout her entire life, the only parent figures she had, while at the Cottages she only had her old friends and the veterans. Her feelings are human since humans are generally fearful about change. Meeting or even seeing her possible would change everything about her life.

However, after observing the woman and realizing that she was not her possible, Ruth has a breakdown and she tells Tommy that they’re, “‘modeled from trash… Do you think [the woman would] have talked to us like that if she’d known what [they] really were… If you want to look for possibles… look in the gutter… in rubbish bins… the toilet. That’s where you’ll find where we all came from’” (Ishiguro 166). Ruth wanted to have someone she belongs to, and when the opportunity arises to find out where she comes from she takes it. However, when she and her friends realized that the woman from the office is not Ruth’s possible, Ruth learns that she’s probably never going to find her possible. Ruth can be considered to be human because of her desire to find out where and who she comes from. Not wanting to harm another living being, and wanting to create a person’s own future are aspects of having human nature shown the clones’ reactions when one of their donors completes, and how the clones imagined dream futures for themselves. When first speaking about her job as a carer, Kathy says that carers, “aren’t machines. [They] try and do [their] best for every donor, but in the end, it wears [them] down. [They] don’t have unlimited patience and energy” (Ishiguro 4).

It’s not human for people to be constantly working. The clones get tired and weary if they work too much, just like how humans feel. In the carer’s line of work taking care of donors is just like how a doctor has to take care of patients. In his theoretical essay, “Monumental Monstrosity, Monstrous Monumentally,” Terry Kirk simply states that, “monsters kill” (Kirk 14). Kathy says that not all carers are, “cut out for it… They might start off positively enough, but… all that time spent so close to the pain and the worry… sooner or later, a donor doesn’t make it… some… learn pretty quick how to deal… But others… never do” (Ishiguro 207).

The carers are not the ones doing the killing, but because they are involved and invested in the donor’s life, they feel that they are in some part responsible for the death. Feeling responsible for the death of someone you care about is a very human feeling. In the novel, the lives of the clones have already been set for them, but it doesn’t seem to stop them from dreaming about their own futures. At the Cottages, Kathy “suppose[s] it was mainly… newcomers who talked about “dream futures” that winter, though a number of veterans did too… It couldn’t last, of course, but… just for those few months, [they] somehow managed to live in this cosy state of suspension in which [they] could ponder our lives without the usual boundaries” (Ishiguro 142).

It’s human nature to have hope even when there doesn’t seem to be much to be hopeful for. The clones know that their time is limited, yet that doesn’t stop them from imagining their lives to be different than what it is. It may seem that they are blindly accepting their fates, but imagining their dream lives may be their way of rebelling against what society has planned for them. Compassion and empathy for your fellow person is one of the greatest attributes that a human can have. The friendships are complicated, but they are also very realistic. Just like in real life, the friends fight, solve their problems, have misunderstandings, and support each other.

When Kathy went to stop Tommy’s tantrum, “afterwards, the others thought he’d meant to do it, but [Kathy] was pretty sure it was unintentional… as he threw up his arm, he knocked [Kathy’s] arm aside and hit the side of [her] face… ‘Tommy,’ [Kathy] said, quite sternly. ‘There’s mud all over your shirt’” (Ishiguro 11). Kathy was in love with Tommy since their childhood. She notices the color and material of his shirt, which is not something that a person who had no opinion of Tommy would think. Even though he hit her, albeit accidentally, Kathy doesn’t get mad with him because of that. Instead, she is just upset that his shirt has gotten ruined. During the trip to Norfolk, Kathy and Tommy stay behind, which is when they seem to reunite their friendship. This is also when Tommy mentions that when they were, “’in that shop… with loads of records and tapes… [he] was looking for the one [Kathy] lost that time’” (Ishiguro 169).

After searching for the tape, Kathy is the one who finds out, and Tommy remarks that, “’Back then, when [she] lost it, [he] used to think… what it would be like, if [he] found it and brought it to [her]’” (Ishiguro 173). Tommy knew how much the tape Kathy lost meant to her. What is remarkable is that he had thought of finding her tape when they were children instead of during this trip when he went into the record shop. Tommy’s desire to help Kathy shows the compassion and empathy he has for her. When Kathy was worried that her possible was a porn model, she talked to Tommy about it, and she said, “there were tears filling [her] eyes… [her] voice wobbled… [Kathy didn’t] know if Tommy saw the tears… he came close to [her] and gave [her] shoulders a squeeze… somehow [Kathy] did feel better” (Ishiguro 181).

Their friendship may have been a complicated one, considering that Tommy is dating Ruth and the fact that they wouldn’t even be together for very long, however, Tommy is able to comfort Kathy without even saying a word. Together, they theorized on why art was so important at Hailsham, and Tommy said that he had been working on some animal drawings, “‘just in case. [He hasn’t] told anyone, not even Ruth. It’s just a start’” (Ishiguro 178). Tommy trusts Kathy more than he does Ruth, who is his girlfriend. He hadn’t told Ruth about his thoughts on art at Hailsham or his drawings, yet he told the girl who was Ruth’s rival for his love. Faced with his fourth donation, Tommy tells Kathy that he, “‘ought to get a different carer’” and that, “‘Ruth wanted the other thing for [them]… [Tommy doesn’t] want to be that way in from of [Kathy]’” (Ishiguro 280-281). Kathy wants to be with Tommy until the end, and Tommy probably wants to be with her too.

However, he knows that seeing him complete would be too much for her, and he tells her that Ruth only wanted her to be his carer if they were able to get a deferral. They both care about and love each other so much that they’re willingly going against what they want to make the other person happy. The friendship and romantic relationship between Kathy and Tommy shows the human traits of compassion, empathy, and love they have for each other. Using fond memories is a common way to remember and cope with feelings of loss. Kathy H is the narrator of the novel, but while narrating Kathy mentions several times that, “maybe [she’s] remembered it wrong” (Ishiguro 8).

Old memories can often play tricks on people, and Kathy’s confession, although makes her an honest narrator, doesn’t make her the most reliable one. Her admission that she may forget or misremember some details shows that memory can be powerful, yet it is just as fragile. Kathy is a carer when she hears that Hailsham is closing, and she wonders what would happen to, “all the students who’d grown up with [her] and were now spread across the country, carers and donors, all separated now but still somehow linked by the place [they’d] come from” (Ishiguro 212). If there was no more Hailsham, her friendship with Tommy and Ruth would be split up forever. However, their memory of Hailsham and their experiences throughout their life binds them together. Hailsham resurfaces a lot throughout the novel, and it seems at times to be the only thing that binds the three friends together. Even after the school’s closer, Kathy constantly thinks about Hailsham during her drives, “around a country now, [she] still see[s] things that… remind [her] of Hailsham… corner of a misty field… a large house in the distance… a particular arrangement… of trees… and [she’ll] think… [she’s] found it” (Ishiguro 6).

Kathy seems to be obsessed with finding her old home. Throughout the entire novel, she seems to have a tough time letting go of her past. Kathy is completely alone in her life, and she’s partially looking forward to when she stops being a carer so she’ll be able, “to stop and think and remember… been getting this urge to order all these old memories” (Ishiguro 37). Kathy wants to put all her old memories in order, but in the novel they’re all almost out of order. While the first part chronicles her childhood at Hailsham, the second part her life at the Cottages, and third part when she’s a carer, she seems to be constantly jumping from her present life to the past. This narrative is her process of recovering and attempting to make sense of her memories. Towards the end of the novel, Kathy says that when she, “was talking to one of [her] donors… who was complaining about how memories, even [the] most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly… [Kathy] lost Ruth, then… Tommy, but [she] won’t lose… memories of them” (Ishiguro 286).

Kathy loses the two most important people in her life, but she doesn’t want to lose her memory of them. However, even though her feelings for them will remain, some of her memory will fade. Kathy’s memories are her way holding on and coping with everything she has lost. She keeps her memories of Tommy and Ruth long after they die, just as she has kept her memory of Hailsham all her life. Kathy’s use of memories to remember Ruth and Tommy and Hailsham is a human way to deal with loss. Throughout history, people of different races have often discriminated others or have been discriminated against. Africans were forcibly taken from Africa for centuries to be slaves on white people’s plantations in Europe and North America.

Natives of a foreign land were often seen as uncivilized people who needed to change their religion or culture to be considered acceptable by a certain type of society. East Asians were often persecuted or discriminated against during immigration. Hispanics and latin americans are often perceived as “invaders” by modern American society. And in recent times, middle easterners are thought to be terrorists by many western countries. One day, it will be able to create living people through technology. However, that will begin debates on whether or not those beings should be considered human. The question that needs to be asked is if once again are people going to be discriminated against because they were born in a way they could not control or for once are they going to be accepted for what they are.

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Concept of Humanity in Never Let Me Go. (2021, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Concept of Humanity in Never Let Me Go

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