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Analyse the Role of the Key Characters and Their Development in 'Never Let Me Go'

In this worksheet, students will analyse key characters more closely, considering the techniques Ishiguro uses in presenting these.

'Analyse the Role of the Key Characters and Their Development in 'Never Let Me Go'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

Curriculum topic:  

Curriculum subtopic:  

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

What do you notice about the following quotation taken from Chapter 19?

"for the first time in ages the sun started to shine weakly through the greyness"

 

sun shining through clouds

 

Here Ishiguro uses pathetic fallacy - the weather is reflecting something about the mood of the characters at this point in the novel.
 

The "greyness" could suggest something about the unhappiness Kathy has seen in Ruth in her life as a donor.

 

However, the trip to see the boat with Tommy and Kathy appears to bring out some happiness in Ruth as "the sun started to shine weakly".

 

Here we are looking at the connotations of a word, what words suggest to us, and analysing their effect.

 

When you are exploring a character in the exam, you will need to show that you can use quotations to support your points and analyse the quotations to explore what they show about the character. 


In the following worksheet, you will be able to practise analysing Ishiguro's characterisation in more depth, exploring the techniques he uses and how these reveal something about the characters in 'Never Let Me Go'.

Kathy H is the first person narrator in 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

What is important about this narrative voice?

Kathy is an unreliable narrator - we only learn about events and characters from her perspective

Kathy is a reliable narrator - we trust that everything she tells us is true

Kathy uses flashbacks and flash forwards in her narrative which therefore, presents events in an unchronological order

Kathy presents a chronological narrative of her life

Kathy shows us how important her memories of Hailsham are to her by constantly returning to this time in her flashbacks

What does Ishiguro suggest about Kathy's initial feelings about Ruth in the following quotation taken from Chapter 4?

 

"...absolutely dreading the idea of her turning her gaze on me. I didn't say a word, but I was desperate for her to realise I wasn't with the girls behind me."

Ishiguro shows Kathy's absolute admiration of Ruth by showing how "desperate" she is not to upset her

Kathy is shown to have mixed feelings about Ruth; the verb "dreading" shows how threatening she finds Ruth but at the same time, the adjective "desperate" suggests that Kathy is also looking for acceptance from Ruth

Kathy appears to be scared of Ruth and wants to avoid "her gaze" and go unnoticed

How does Ishiguro present Ruth as a student at Hailsham in the following quotation?

 

"Let's just agree. Let's agree I got it in the Sale.' Then she gave us all a knowing smile."

Aggressive

Nervous

Manipulative

Friendly

Consider the following quotations from Chapter 17 and match them to the analytical comment about Ishiguro's characterisation of Kathy.

Column A

Column B

"I thought about it, then said: "It's always good ...
Ishiguro shows that Kathy carefully thinks about h...
"I sighed with irritation and said: "Ruth, don't g...
As the novel progresses, Ishiguro shows how Kathy ...
"After that I think we went back to talking in a m...
Ishiguro shows that Kathy and Ruth's relationship ...

How does Ishiguro reflect aspects of Tommy's character through his drawings?

 

intricate crab drawing

 

Click on all of the relevant analytical responses below.

Ishiguro presents Tommy as a hopeful character. He shows a belief that his drawings might help him to achieve a deferral

Kathy describes Tommy's drawings as "densely detailed", perhaps reflecting that Tommy's character is so much more complex than he was perceived to be at school, where he was known for his tantrums and his lack of artistic ability

Kathy's description of Tommy's drawings as having "obsessive precision" also reflects the way in which he questions and tries to find answers during his time at Hailsham and then throughout his later life

Tommy's drawings show his lack of belief in their purpose, hence why he creates drawings which are so different from what he was taught at Hailsham

Match the quotations below to the analytical comments about Ishiguro's presentation of Ruth just before she dies in Chapter 19.

 Ruth shows that she wants to make amends for her behaviour.Ruth shows recognition of her faults and how wrongly she has treated others.Ruth recognises that some of her actions came from feeling threatened by Kathy and Tommy's relationship.
"But I kept you apart."
"I'd like you to forgive me but I don't expect you to."
"Put right what I messed up for you."

How does Ishiguro build mystery around the character of Madame?

 

Complete the passage below, analysing her character.

 Ruth shows that she wants to make amends for her behaviour.Ruth shows recognition of her faults and how wrongly she has treated others.Ruth recognises that some of her actions came from feeling threatened by Kathy and Tommy's relationship.
"But I kept you apart."
"I'd like you to forgive me but I don't expect you to."
"Put right what I messed up for you."

How do Miss Lucy's and Miss Emily's attitudes differ?

 

Match the quotations below to the analytical comment about their attitudes.

Column A

Column B

"She thought you students had to be more aware. Mo...
Ishiguro reveals how Miss Emily's viewpoint was in...
"But we sheltered you during those years, and we g...
As the novel progresses, Ishiguro suggests that Mi...

How would you describe the students' overall attitude to their destiny as donors?

Accepting

Rebellious

It is now time to have a go at a mini essay question.

 

In the exam, you might be asked to write about how a writer presents a particular character in the novel.

 

You will need to use quotations to support each of your points and should link your points about a character to the key contextual factors surrounding the novel.

 

For the highest marks, you will need to show an analysis of the writer's techniques in presenting this character.

 

Task: How does Ishiguro present Ruth in 'Never Let Me Go'?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

  • Question 1

Kathy H is the first person narrator in 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

What is important about this narrative voice?

CORRECT ANSWER
Kathy is an unreliable narrator - we only learn about events and characters from her perspective
Kathy uses flashbacks and flash forwards in her narrative which therefore, presents events in an unchronological order
Kathy shows us how important her memories of Hailsham are to her by constantly returning to this time in her flashbacks
EDDIE SAYS
Did you spot all three? It's important to recognise that everything we learn about in the novel is from Kathy's perspective. Whilst we build trust in her as our narrator, we must remember that she's telling the story by recalling past events. Even Kathy herself suggests that her memories of particular events are different from another character's! Also notice how the novel jumps around. Kathy almost presents a stream of consciousness where she jumps from one thought to another. This results in an unchronological order but also helps us to see how the past and particularly her time at Hailsham is central to everything else that happens to her.
  • Question 2

What does Ishiguro suggest about Kathy's initial feelings about Ruth in the following quotation taken from Chapter 4?

 

"...absolutely dreading the idea of her turning her gaze on me. I didn't say a word, but I was desperate for her to realise I wasn't with the girls behind me."

CORRECT ANSWER
Kathy is shown to have mixed feelings about Ruth; the verb "dreading" shows how threatening she finds Ruth but at the same time, the adjective "desperate" suggests that Kathy is also looking for acceptance from Ruth
EDDIE SAYS
Ishiguro shows Kathy's mixed feelings! Ruth is certainly presented as a leader in the group of students at Hailsham. Kathy is both scared of upsetting her and desperate to be accepted by her and become her friend. These mixed feelings perhaps help us to understand why Kathy doesn't stand up to Ruth more often! Zooming in on words in quotations like the correct explanation above is a great way to show closer analysis of language!
  • Question 3

How does Ishiguro present Ruth as a student at Hailsham in the following quotation?

 

"Let's just agree. Let's agree I got it in the Sale.' Then she gave us all a knowing smile."

CORRECT ANSWER
Manipulative
EDDIE SAYS
Ishiguro shows us early on how Ruth manages to manipulate the other students. Here we see her using quite controlling imperative language in "Let's just agree" but at the same time she doesn't come across as overly aggressive. Equally, she isn't being particularly friendly here. Her "knowing smile" appears to be carefully employed by Ruth to persuade other students that she is being favoured. This is manipulation at it's best! It certainly achieves its desired result when Kathy says "it was like she'd suddenly got up and hit me".
  • Question 4

Consider the following quotations from Chapter 17 and match them to the analytical comment about Ishiguro's characterisation of Kathy.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"I thought about it, then said: "...
Ishiguro shows that Kathy careful...
"I sighed with irritation and sai...
As the novel progresses, Ishiguro...
"After that I think we went back ...
Ishiguro shows that Kathy and Rut...
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? Ishiguro certainly shows Kathy to be diplomatic! We understand some of her frustrations through her first person narrative but don't always see her acting on these. A lot of the time, she just lets these go to keep the peace. However, we do see her irritation with Ruth rising throughout the novel and when she finally sees that Ruth won't ever admit the truth, at the end of Part 2 Kathy makes the decision to become a carer. It's as if she's finally had enough! Note how her answer to Ruth is walking away, rather than to push her and get involved in a full blown argument. Could we say she's quite a passive character in this way?
  • Question 5

How does Ishiguro reflect aspects of Tommy's character through his drawings?

 

intricate crab drawing

 

Click on all of the relevant analytical responses below.

CORRECT ANSWER
Ishiguro presents Tommy as a hopeful character. He shows a belief that his drawings might help him to achieve a deferral
Kathy describes Tommy's drawings as "densely detailed", perhaps reflecting that Tommy's character is so much more complex than he was perceived to be at school, where he was known for his tantrums and his lack of artistic ability
Kathy's description of Tommy's drawings as having "obsessive precision" also reflects the way in which he questions and tries to find answers during his time at Hailsham and then throughout his later life
EDDIE SAYS
Did you spot all three? Kathy's reactions to Tommy's drawings reveal a lot about how detailed and intricate they are. Ishiguro uses the drawings here to be symbolic of many of Tommy's characteristics. He's certainly more than he's portrayed at Hailsham which is often the laughing stock of the party! The fact that his drawings are so different from what Kathy has seen at Hailsham, just shows how different he is from the other students. He is willing to question and theorise but has the confidence to do this in his own way!
  • Question 6

Match the quotations below to the analytical comments about Ishiguro's presentation of Ruth just before she dies in Chapter 19.

CORRECT ANSWER
 Ruth shows that she wants to make amends for her behaviour.Ruth shows recognition of her faults and how wrongly she has treated others.Ruth recognises that some of her actions came from feeling threatened by Kathy and Tommy's relationship.
"But I kept you apart."
"I'd like you to forgive me but I don't expect you to."
"Put right what I messed up for you."
EDDIE SAYS
How did you know? Ishiguro highlights a real change in Ruth by the end of the novel. Just before her death, she tries to make everything right. She accepts where she was wrong and doesn't even ask for forgiveness. She also admits to keeping Tommy and Kathy apart which really reveals her insecurities. As a reader, we might start to view her earlier manipulative and controlling behaviour as a cover up for her lack of confidence. She certainly tries to make amends by giving Tommy and Kathy the best chance of a future when she gives them Madame's address and pleads for them to seek a deferral.
  • Question 7

How does Ishiguro build mystery around the character of Madame?

 

Complete the passage below, analysing her character.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you fill all of the blanks? As well as commenting on language techniques, you should try considering structural aspects to Ishiguro's novel. The way in which Ishiguro uses Kathy's narrative in an unchronological order with lots of flashbacks and flash forwards, allows him to withhold information and allows the reader to make links before revealing the full story in the final few chapters. This creates tension for the reader but also reflects Kathy's own experience of growing up at Hailsham where the truth wasn't fully explained to her. It's only as an adult that she can fully make sense of her life at Hailsham.
  • Question 8

How do Miss Lucy's and Miss Emily's attitudes differ?

 

Match the quotations below to the analytical comment about their attitudes.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"She thought you students had to ...
As the novel progresses, Ishiguro...
"But we sheltered you during thos...
Ishiguro reveals how Miss Emily's...
EDDIE SAYS
Remember that Miss Lucy loses her job because of her views which conflict with Miss Emily's. Miss Emily calls Miss Lucy "idealistic". Remember that Ishiguro wanted to write about the human condition and explore the idea of human mortality. Miss Lucy represents one side of an argument that suggests that the way we live our lives is affected by knowing our fate while Miss Emily suggests that we can live better fulfilled lives if we don't know what our final destiny is.
  • Question 9

How would you describe the students' overall attitude to their destiny as donors?

CORRECT ANSWER
Accepting
EDDIE SAYS
Notice how no one really tries to rebel against the system! Many of the characters show hope that their futures might be different but even Kathy and Tommy, when they finally learn the truth, accept that this is their fate and continue with their lives. Ishiguro relates the clone's lives to human lives here, once again exploring the idea of human mortality. Humans know that they'll eventually die but this doesn't make their lives any less important or purposeful.
  • Question 10

It is now time to have a go at a mini essay question.

 

In the exam, you might be asked to write about how a writer presents a particular character in the novel.

 

You will need to use quotations to support each of your points and should link your points about a character to the key contextual factors surrounding the novel.

 

For the highest marks, you will need to show an analysis of the writer's techniques in presenting this character.

 

Task: How does Ishiguro present Ruth in 'Never Let Me Go'?

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Kathy's first person narrative helps Ishiguro present the contradictory nature of Ruth's personality. Kathy recounts how there were "two quite separate Ruths". Kathy also helps us to understand why Ruth acts in the ways she does; she explains that Ruth wanted to "impress the veterans". Here the verb "impress" suggests that Ruth is seeking acceptance, which connotes the idea of insecurity in Ruth's character. Kathy sees the other side of Ruth however when she says that she is "the one I confided in before bed" and "could absolutely trust". Kathy's certainty and confidence conveyed in "absolutely trust" helps the reader to have a deeper understanding of Ruth's faults as Kathy shows her very likeable qualities too. Ishiguro intended to write about the human condition and explore how we deal with the inevitability of death. Indeed Kathy shows very human characteristics when she tries to build relationships and seek acceptance but perhaps doesn't always know how best to achieve this. The flaws that Ishiguro presents in Ruth are very human and relatable.
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