The smart way to improve grades

Comprehensive & curriculum aligned

Affordable pricing from £10/month

Overview of context for 'Never Let Me Go'

In this worksheet, students will explore the key contextual factors surrounding Kazuo Ishiguro's 'Never Let Me Go'.

'Overview of context for 'Never Let Me Go'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   Eduqas, OCR, AQA

Curriculum topic:   Post-1914 Prose / Drama, Modern Prose or Drama, Modern Texts: Prose

Curriculum subtopic:   Never Let Me Go

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

sheep            heart          lab experiment

 

What do these images make you think of?

 

How do they relate to the context of 'Never Let Me Go'?

 

In the exam, you will need to relate all of your points about characters or themes in the novel to something about the context in which Ishiguro was writing.

 

In this activity we will explore the key contextual factors around 'Never Let Me Go' and will think about:

 

- aspects of genre

- what was happening in the world at the time Ishiguro was writing

- Ishiguro's intentions

- how the novel was received 

To begin with, complete the following passage to revise some key facts about the writer Kazuo Ishiguro.

What genres does 'Never Let Me Go' fit into?

Comedy

Crime

Dystopia

Utopia

Realism

Which of the language below fits into the dystopian elements of the novel and which fit into the more realistic elements?

 DystopiaRealism
Completion
Pavillion
Norfolk
Donors
Exchanges
Hailsham
Carers
Sports field
Roads

So what influenced Ishiguro's writing?

 

What was happening in the world at the time he was writing at the beginning of the 21st century?

 

Something that happened in the 1990s was huge developments in medical and biological sciences. 

 

Complete the passage below to describe the significance of this picture:
sheep

 

 DystopiaRealism
Completion
Pavillion
Norfolk
Donors
Exchanges
Hailsham
Carers
Sports field
Roads

What was the world's reaction to Dolly the Sheep?

Dolly the Sheep was celebrated as an amazing breakthrough in science that could see the cure of many diseases and therefore life saving for huge numbers of people

The news of Dolly the sheep was met with huge uproar. The ethical considerations around the idea of cloning even became part of political debate and resulted in new laws

The development of stem cell research in the 1990s is also significant when we are looking at the context around 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

science lab experiment

 

Using the words below, complete the passage to learn a little bit more about stem cell research.

 

treatments

divide

diseases

undifferentiated

function

 

 

Dolly the Sheep was celebrated as an amazing breakthrough in science that could see the cure of many diseases and therefore life saving for huge numbers of people

The news of Dolly the sheep was met with huge uproar. The ethical considerations around the idea of cloning even became part of political debate and resulted in new laws

The focus on the physical boundaries in 'Never Let Me Go' evokes images of World War II Nazi concentration camps.

 

concentration camp fence

 

These camps were used to imprison, torture and murder opponents of the Nazi regime, for example, Polish Jews.

 

Click on all of the examples below of where Ishiguro uses imagery related these concentration camps in his novel.

"...a boy had had a big row with his friends and ran off beyond the Hailsham boundaries"

"I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast"

"You didn't say we had to get past barbed wire"

"It's just as well the fences at Hailsham aren't electrified"

"We loved our sports pavillion, maybe because it reminded us of those sweet little cottages people always had in picture books when we were young"

There are many social and literary theories we should also consider when studying 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

Match the following terminology to the correct definition below.

Column A

Column B

Nihilism
A focus on material gain
Colonialism
A powerful nation gaining control over a weaker na...
Consumerism
The idea that our pathway is already decided by th...
Uncanny
A double that makes us question our own identity
Social determinism
A belief that life is meaningless.

Whilst the novel raises lots of ethical and social questions, Ishiguro has often explained in interviews that his main intention was to write a story about the human condition. 

 

Ishiguro asks how humans deal with the inevitability of death.

 

Complete the passage using the words below to explore Ishiguro's intentions further.

 

rebel

donors

mortality

love 

inevitable

Column A

Column B

Nihilism
A focus on material gain
Colonialism
A powerful nation gaining control over a weaker na...
Consumerism
The idea that our pathway is already decided by th...
Uncanny
A double that makes us question our own identity
Social determinism
A belief that life is meaningless.

Ishiguro's dystopian society uses some terminology that is similar to the language we use but, has a different meaning.

 

Match the following terms to their meaning in Ishiguro's dystopian society.

 carersdonorsclonescompletionexchangessalesguardiansrecovery centre
The students have been born with the purpose of donating their organs.
Students look after other donors before coming donors themselves.
Death after a donation.
Giving an organ to a normal human.
The selling and buying of creative work.
Where the clones go after a donation.
The teachers.
An opportunity to buy things from outside of Hailsham.
  • Question 1

To begin with, complete the following passage to revise some key facts about the writer Kazuo Ishiguro.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you find them all? Although Ishiguro was born in Japan, he only set a couple of his first novels here. 'Never Let Me Go' is set in the UK. Ishiguro has often mentioned how his upbringing has allowed him to see things in the UK from a different perspective. Ishiguro wrote this novel at the beginning of the 21st century so think about what was happening in the world at this time. What might have influenced Ishiguro's writing?
  • Question 2

What genres does 'Never Let Me Go' fit into?

CORRECT ANSWER
Dystopia
Realism
EDDIE SAYS
Did you spot both? A Dystopia is an imagined dysfunctional society. The society Ishiguro presents in 'Never Let Me Go' imagines a world where humans are cloned for the purpose of organ donation. Dystopia is sometimes related to science fiction and there are certainly some science fiction elements to Ishiguro's novel. However, much of the novel is presented as realism. In fact, Ishiguro has talked in interviews that it's the story of the human condition that interests him the most. The science-fiction elements were an afterthought to this primary intention. Ishiguro's use of Kathy's first person narrative helps him create a kind of psychological realism to the story.
  • Question 3

Which of the language below fits into the dystopian elements of the novel and which fit into the more realistic elements?

CORRECT ANSWER
 DystopiaRealism
Completion
Pavillion
Norfolk
Donors
Exchanges
Hailsham
Carers
Sports field
Roads
EDDIE SAYS
Notice how there are lots of elements of both! The imagined society comes with a whole set of terminology related to the systems in place. Think about the idea of clones, donors, completions, carers, sales, exchanges and recovery centres to name just a few. However, Ishiguro's use of terminology for his dystopian world isn't too out there - he doesn't fill the book with complex science fiction jargon. This makes his dystopian world even more realistic! Notice how he also uses lots of familiar UK settings to bring realism to his story. He paints a picture of a normal UK - the roads, the buildings, the school environment such as the sports field and pavilion and Norfolk full of British seaside towns, just to name a few. This makes the dystopian elements all the more real and all the more shocking!
  • Question 4

So what influenced Ishiguro's writing?

 

What was happening in the world at the time he was writing at the beginning of the 21st century?

 

Something that happened in the 1990s was huge developments in medical and biological sciences. 

 

Complete the passage below to describe the significance of this picture:
sheep

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Have you heard about Dolly? This was an important development in the world of science. It changed what scientists thought was possible! Ishiguro takes this real scientific development and pushes it one step further. He shows an imagined world where science has developed to allow humans to be cloned for the sole purpose of becoming organ donors for other adults who need a donation for their survival.
  • Question 5

What was the world's reaction to Dolly the Sheep?

CORRECT ANSWER
The news of Dolly the sheep was met with huge uproar. The ethical considerations around the idea of cloning even became part of political debate and resulted in new laws
EDDIE SAYS
Dolly was the world's most controversial sheep! She opened up much debate about the ethics of cloning, mainly because people began to think about the implications for human cloning and the potential problems with this. Lots of people argued that people didn't have the right to play God and change the course of nature. Others worried that these developments could lead to dangerous scientific experiment such as genetic engineering. You might've heard the idea of "designer babies" where potentially someone could choose the genetic components of a child to engineer to be a certain way. Remember that Ishiguro's novel was published shortly after this scientific development and these issues would still be very relevant to his readers. Indeed, even now, the issue of cloning is still very much under debate. We still don't have human cloning but the world has seen developments in the cloning of pets and animals such as elite racehorses.
  • Question 6

The development of stem cell research in the 1990s is also significant when we are looking at the context around 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

science lab experiment

 

Using the words below, complete the passage to learn a little bit more about stem cell research.

 

treatments

divide

diseases

undifferentiated

function

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? What a science lesson! Stem cell research was and still is another controversial scientific development. Obviously, it offers great hope for the research and treatment of diseases such as cancer. However, when stem cells are taken from embryos, an embryo is destroyed. Lots of people believe that an embryo is a human life so there's much debate about whether humans have the right to take away the rights of another human being in this way.
  • Question 7

The focus on the physical boundaries in 'Never Let Me Go' evokes images of World War II Nazi concentration camps.

 

concentration camp fence

 

These camps were used to imprison, torture and murder opponents of the Nazi regime, for example, Polish Jews.

 

Click on all of the examples below of where Ishiguro uses imagery related these concentration camps in his novel.

CORRECT ANSWER
"...a boy had had a big row with his friends and ran off beyond the Hailsham boundaries"
"You didn't say we had to get past barbed wire"
"It's just as well the fences at Hailsham aren't electrified"
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to find all three? Look out for all of the imagery related to the physical boundaries around Hailsham, such as the fences and the woods and the stories about what would happen to the students if they were to go beyond them. Think about how these physical boundaries are evocative of the Nazi concentration camps - what is Ishiguro suggesting about Hailsham and the system of cloning for organ donation? This imagery certainly builds a sense of a dictatorship that's taking away basic human rights! These physical boundaries depicted could also represent the psychological boundaries within Hailsham. Students are denied the full information about their fates and appear powerless in achieving a different outcome. Of course, we could also explore to what extent these boundaries are put into place to protect the students at Hailsham.
  • Question 8

There are many social and literary theories we should also consider when studying 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

Match the following terminology to the correct definition below.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Nihilism
A belief that life is meaningless...
Colonialism
A powerful nation gaining control...
Consumerism
A focus on material gain
Uncanny
A double that makes us question o...
Social determinism
The idea that our pathway is alre...
EDDIE SAYS
This is a tricky one! Lots of new terms to learn! Some questions to think about: Nihilism - Is life meaningless for the students because their deaths are inevitable? Colonialism - What's being colonised in the novel? Consumerism - Are the students part of the consumer society? Uncanny - Where's the idea of the uncanny used in the novel? Social determinism - Why don't the students rebel against the system when they know their fates?
  • Question 9

Whilst the novel raises lots of ethical and social questions, Ishiguro has often explained in interviews that his main intention was to write a story about the human condition. 

 

Ishiguro asks how humans deal with the inevitability of death.

 

Complete the passage using the words below to explore Ishiguro's intentions further.

 

rebel

donors

mortality

love 

inevitable

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you fill every space? When relating your ideas about characters and themes to context, try to consider not just the social and historical context of the period in which Ishiguro was writing, but also his intentions. The ethical questions raised were secondary to Ishiguro's intention to write about the human condition and the way in which we build relationships and find meaning in these. Try to watch some videos where Ishiguro talks about the novel - this will help you to understand more about why he wrote 'Never Let Me Go.'
  • Question 10

Ishiguro's dystopian society uses some terminology that is similar to the language we use but, has a different meaning.

 

Match the following terms to their meaning in Ishiguro's dystopian society.

CORRECT ANSWER
 carersdonorsclonescompletionexchangessalesguardiansrecovery centre
The students have been born with the purpose of donating their organs.
Students look after other donors before coming donors themselves.
Death after a donation.
Giving an organ to a normal human.
The selling and buying of creative work.
Where the clones go after a donation.
The teachers.
An opportunity to buy things from outside of Hailsham.
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? Notice how none of this language is too complex like some science fiction. Ishiguro creates a dystopian world that is still very much related to our reality by using language we are familiar with, in a slightly different way. This makes the events even more shocking as this world has an uncanny resemblance to our own - Ishiguro forces his reader to imagine this as a real possibility!
---- OR ----

Sign up for a £1 trial so you can track and measure your child's progress on this activity.

What is EdPlace?

We're your National Curriculum aligned online education content provider helping each child succeed in English, maths and science from year 1 to GCSE. With an EdPlace account you’ll be able to track and measure progress, helping each child achieve their best. We build confidence and attainment by personalising each child’s learning at a level that suits them.

Get started
laptop

Start your £1 trial today.
Subscribe from £10/month.