Monday, November 12, 2012

Unreliable Narrator

Memory is a tricky thing: it's hard to know what really happened, what you made up, and what has been added due to other people's influence. Kathy in Never Let Me Go often uses the language of uncertainty and even admits to times when her recollections differ from Tommy's or Ruth's memories. There are times where she can't remember the reason for or location of a memory; she can't even keep them in chronological order always.

Kathy is also looking back on her life as she finishes her work as a "carer." I imagine she wants her life to look prettier in retrospect than it actually was, such as when she insists that no one cared that The Cottages were falling apart, or when she pulls out her oft-repeated phrase, "but you have to remember." She knows she's telling a life narrative, but how accurate can memory be?

Does her memory make Kathy an unreliable narrator?


  1. I wouldn't call Kathy an unreliable narrator BECAUSE she constantly tells us when she may not be remembering something correctly. To me, unreliably occurs without the author acknowledging it. To be fair to Kathy, she says things such as: "Okay, I'm maybe being a bit hard on these two" (142) when describing Chrissie and Rodney. Because she always notifies the reader, I trust Kathy, and I like her. She seems honest.

  2. I don't think she's unreliable. She's acknowledging that each of us remember things differently so her memories of how an event happened would be different than say Ruth's memory of the same event. I forget where she mentioned it, but she even says that the problem with looking back on things is that you are influenced by what follows.

  3. I guess it depends on how we define "unreliable." It's not that I think Kathy is purposefully lying or contriving. But we're not getting the as-it-happened facts of any given situation. Kathy's not a newspaper; she doesn't always report objectively or correctly.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.