Monday, November 12, 2012

Parts and Pieces in Never Let Me Go

Like JillAnn, I am fascinated by Kathy’s memory in Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go thus far. For me, however, Kathy’s sometimes misty or hazy memory doesn’t make me question her reliability as much as instills a longing to understand or sympathize with her—a longing that seems impossible to satisfy as I continue to read. In this way, I am interested in our experience as readers and how the pace of the novel is established through glimpses or “parts” of Kathy’s experiences at Hailsham and The Cottages. This notion of pieces or parts reminds me of parts of the physical body, organs, and parts of the characters or perhaps creatures of Hailsham. I am especially intrigued by Kathy’s mention of “pieces” and “parts” in relation to a whole and how her parts trap us in the liminal space between (like Lillie’s post mentions) not having the capacity to sympathize with Kathy’s use of “you” and so desperately longing to nurture, rescue, or relate to these human beings who exist for this incomprehensible purpose. Although Kathy only reveals parts of her life as she feels necessary, I appreciate the fluidity and honesty (as Blythe put it) that Kathy seems to definitely convey.  On page 124 Kathy compares her interaction with Ruth to that of a chess game: “It was like when you make a move in chess and just as you take your finger off the piece, you see the mistake you've made, and there’s a panic because you don’t know yet the scale of the disaster you've left yourself open to” (pg 124). Not only does this particular passage reveal the irony in Kathy’s desire to control, it heightens the devastating reality of the potential fates of these characters and taunts us, as readers, to at once want to sympathize while simultaneously sort of suggesting maybe it’s okay not to get attached, in fact maybe its better, a warning of sorts.  It seems frustrating to read, relate, and get to know these characters with their end in mind. It’s almost as though we know this “puzzle” will never be complete or whole. We know that there characters are only constructed to be deconstructed for someone’s completion or fix.  Kathy is so good at trapping us in her airy mist of nostalgia; I’m either inside looking out, or outside looking in…but never wholly there, never complete, there is always a part of something negated.  In this sense, perhaps our containment as readers rightfully reassembles the containment of Ruth, Tommy, and Kathy; we barely see through the windows that they've been subjected to their whole lives and right now I am thankful and maybe even hopeful for a “cozy state of suspension” before we have to face the deconstruction or death. For all the various communities, couples, and bonding that Hailsham requires of its students and that Kathy tries to incite in us, there's such an overwhelming sense of isolation/distance. For such a bleak and somber atmosphere, the prospect and desire to discover one’s “possible” seems chillingly wrong. 


  1. Emily, I like the link you made between the pieces of memory Kathy gives the reader and the pieces of body the donors give. I also agree that we are constant outsiders in the story even though we are treated like insiders, like Lillie said in her post. I wonder if Kathy recognizes her isolation like we do...we see her constantly reaching into the past to remind Ruth of the fun times they used to have. Is this Kathy simply wanting to remember her childhood, or is it something more, is it her trying to form relationships in a society that seems to discourage relationships?

  2. We are outsiders linking together the pieces of the puzzle through Kathy's memories, but Kathy is also like an outsider because she's a carer. I think that through her memories she is trying to make better sense of her life and find a better understanding. It almost seems like the memories serve as a filler for the donors she shares them with to replace the parts of them that they have lost.

  3. Jessica, I think that's an interesting idea-- that Kathy sort of compensates for the donors' lost memories. Like when she runs into Harry, but he doesn't seem to recognize her. She makes a comment about how maybe after his current medications wear off he will remember her vaguely, as a small character in his time at Hailsham.

    And Emily, I like the wondering of how we, as readers, are supposed to feel toward these characters. . . Are we supposed to feel pity or sorrow because we are aware of their purpose? Are we supposed to act as the outside humans in the novel act, with seemingly indifferent or maybe callous views toward the children? Because we are readers compelled to ask such questions, we become part of the Never Let Me Go puzzle ourselves, which is interesting too.


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