The Freshmen Reading Engagement Experience (FREE) is a program developed to introduce freshmen composition students into textual analysis as a way to not only better expand their horizons and understand the world around them, but also examine their own writing more critically.
Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go is set in a dystopian world where students attend a boarding school in England called Hailsham. There they have strict rules about the health of students–such as banning smoking. The main storyline centers around students Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy, and their relationships among one another.
While this falls under the broad definition of dystopia like our 2015 book, The Running Man, it is a very different look at a world that is in many ways a dark reflection of our own. What it lacks in the action of such dystopias as The Running Man and The Hunger Games, it makes up for in horror and emotional complexity. The novel was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, awarded to the best novel each year published in English in the United Kingdom.
Kazuo IshiguroKazuo Ishiguro was born in Japan in 1954 before his family immigrated to England. He is the author of seven novels. Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day are his two most famous works. He has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction four times, and won it for The Remains of the Day.
He has said he views Never Let Me Go as his cheerful novel. “With Never Let Me Go I felt that for the first time I had given myself permission to focus on the positive aspects of human beings. OK, they might be flawed. They might be prone to the usual human emotions like jealousy and pettiness and so on. But I wanted to show three people who were essentially decent. When they finally realize that their time is limited, I wanted them not to be preoccupied with their status or their material possessions. I wanted them to care most about each other and setting things right. So for me, it was saying positive things about human beings against the rather bleak fact of our mortality.”
Never Let Me Go Reactions
Never Let Me Go Reactions is a series of short essays written by faculty and students responding to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.
- Fear outside the normal
by Dr. Alison Witte
- Hating to read
by Dr. Tim Hopp
- Time and tide
by Dr. Sarah Young
- Tales from the schoolhouse
by Dr. Cassandra Bausman
- Creature feature
by Professor Justin Young
- Coping with nostalgia
by Dr. Jeanette Goddard
The fall 2016 Humanities Symposia featured two presentations related to Never Let Me Go. Below is the schedule of talks this semester related to the novel.
- Tuesday, September 27 – 3:30 pm
The Ethics of Organ Donation
Presented by Dr. Mike Blaz
Would you trade an organ for money? Should you? Is an act of kindness like a transplant diminished by a transfer of money? In this talk, Dr. Blaz will explore these and other philosophical questions raised by Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel (and this year’s freshman read pick) Never Let Me Go. The talk will be accessible to all — come if you’ve read the book, come if you haven’t!
- Tuesday, October 4 – 3:30 pm
Superstition: Objects and Instances of Luck and Misfortune
Presented by Professor Sarah Zimmer
Dr. Seuss reminds us, “You ought to be thankful, a whole heaping lot, for the places and people you’re lucky you’re not.” But long before Seuss, some of the earliest civilizations cherished objects they believed would bring them good luck, or, more often, stave off misfortune. From the goddess Fortune to the rabbit’s foot, Professor Zimmer will look at how luck has been portrayed in art and culture through the ages.
- Tuesday, October 11 – 3:30 pm
Mad Scientists and Science Fiction
Presented by Dr. Cassandra Bausman
In many science fiction texts, the scientist is the bad guy. In keeping with the sci-fi freshman read theme, Dr. Bausman will examine the ever-popular ‘mad scientist’ story. She will focus on the intriguing thematic resonances between the classic and contemporary favorites Frankenstein and Jurassic Park. She will discuss the generative and yet problematic relationship between scientific progress and imaginative vision that science fiction, as a critical and creative genre, persistently explores.
- Dismaland: Banksy’s dystopian theme park
Banksy is a British artist best known for his graffiti work. He may be best known to some for his film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, or the opening credits segment he created for The Simpsons. Recently, he created an art installation of a dystopian amusement park parodying the real-life Disneyland. You can see photos of Dismaland here and read a review of the work here.
- The rise of dystopian literature post-Katrina
There was a sharp rise in both the amount of dystopian literature and people searching for it after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. Suzanne Johnson examines some of that literature and the causes in her essay “Hurricane Katrina: Dystopia, in Real Time.”
- Interviews with Kazuo Ishiguro
While a novel should stand on its own without input from the author, it can sometimes be quite enlightening to hear the author’s views on the book and the craft of writing itself. This interview from The Paris Review covers Ishiguro’s entire career and addresses several of his works, including Never Let Me Go. This one from The Guardian was done at the time of publication of the novel and specifically addresses it. If you want something you can listen to on the way to class, this audio interview from the Free Library offers some unique insight.
- Footnotes to explain the text
Book Drum offers extensive footnotes for the entire novel that explain allusions and provide contextual info including maps and photographs to help you better understand the text.
Never Let Me Go features a lot of traveling by its characters. The Google Map below will help you better ground some of those journeys. You can also see the full page version.
Released in 2010, the Never Let Me Go film adaptation stars Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley in a fairly faithful adaptation that nonetheless omits many important details.