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Identify Key Themes in 'Never Let Me Go'

In this activity, students will explore the key themes in 'Never Let Me Go'.

'Identify Key Themes in '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

 holding hands        concentration camp fence       school

 

How do the images above reflect some of the themes explored in Kazuo Ishiguro's 'Never Let Me Go'?

 

Some of the themes that Ishiguro explores are:

Identity

Friendship and love

Memory

Growing up

Dreams vs society's expectations

Life and death

Freedom vs confinement

Passivity

Honesty and deception

 

In the exam, you might be asked to comment on the presentation of a theme.

 

You will need to know which parts of the novel explore each of these and will need to be able to use key quotations which demonstrate these themes.

 

Have a go at the following questions to revise the key themes Ishiguro explores in the novel.

                     

 

                     

What theme is explored through the idea of students having "collections"?

Love

Identity

Confinement

Friendship is another theme in the novel.

 

holding hands

 

Complete the passage below to explore this theme.

Love

Identity

Confinement

Although Ishiguro presents a non-linear narrative that doesn't follow the lives of the characters chronologically, he does use the narrative structure to show Kathy's childhood at Hailsham, her adolescence at the cottages and her life as a carer during adulthood.

What theme is explored through this narrative structure? 

Growing up

Identity

Confinement

The importance of memory is explored by Ishiguro in 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

Complete the quotation below that links to this theme.

 

Growing up

Identity

Confinement

Ishiguro explores the idea of individual hopes and dreams being in conflict with society's expectations and what it has set out for its subjects.

 

Match the quotations below to the aspect of this theme being explored.

Column A

Column B

"Now that would be a proper place to work."
Dreams and hopes
"You were brought into this world for a purpose, a...
Dreams and hopes
"You and Tommy, you've got to try and get a deferr...
Society's expectations
"Your life must now run the course that's been set...
Society's expectations

Which theme is explored by the following quotation?

 

concentration camp fence

 

"She'd been a Hailsham student until one day she'd climbed over a fence just to see what it was like outside."

Friendship

Confinement

Hopes and dreams

Life and death are explored as central themes in 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

Ishiguro explores how people live their lives even with the knowledge that death is inevitable.

 

What does Kathy say at the end of the novel that epitomises this idea?

 

Write the quotation below as a full sentence with quotation marks.

Lies and deceit are explored in the novel as a contrast to the idea of truth and honesty.

 

Match the quotations below to the explanation of how they explore these themes.

 Tommy is shown to value honesty and truth.Miss Lucy believed that students should be told the full truth.Miss Emily withholds the truth from students to protect them.
"I think Miss Lucy was right. Not Miss Emily."
"we sheltered you during those years"
"you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you"

In the novel, we see students lose things and find things.

 

Which of the items below link to the theme of losing and finding things?

Norfolk

'Never Let Me Go' tape

Friends

Hailsham

Roads

The theme of donation is also key to the novel.

 

heart

 

How are students prepared at Hailsham for their life as organ donors? What do they have to give away?

 

  • Question 1

What theme is explored through the idea of students having "collections"?

CORRECT ANSWER
Identity
EDDIE SAYS
Did you find the correct one? The "collections" that students have are described in Chapter 2. Kathy tells us how important "exchanges" were to the students because they could use them to build up "a collection of personal possessions." This shows how students expressed their own sense of identity by choosing things that they liked. This was clearly one of the ways they maintained a sense of identity when they were prevented from having freedom and choice over the majority of things in their life.
  • Question 2

Friendship is another theme in the novel.

 

holding hands

 

Complete the passage below to explore this theme.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? One of Ishiguro's main intentions was to write a story of love and friendship. Despite writing partly dystopian fiction, it's the power of the friendships in the novel that make the story so real! Even though the students' fate as donors is decided for them, it doesn't stop them from finding purpose in their life through the relationships they build. It's Kathy's memories of these relationships that continue to give her life purpose, after the death of Ruth and Tommy.
  • Question 3

Although Ishiguro presents a non-linear narrative that doesn't follow the lives of the characters chronologically, he does use the narrative structure to show Kathy's childhood at Hailsham, her adolescence at the cottages and her life as a carer during adulthood.

What theme is explored through this narrative structure? 

CORRECT ANSWER
Growing up
EDDIE SAYS
Ishiguro tells a story about growing up - this is sometimes referred to as a Bildungsroman. Although Ishiguro presents a dystopian society, he also presents a very real story about how people grow up. Think about all of the changes we see Kathy and the others go through - the arguments, the need for acceptance, sexual maturity and awareness, the search for identity, etc. These are all normal aspects of growing up and help present the clones' lives as parallel to human lives.
  • Question 4

The importance of memory is explored by Ishiguro in 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

Complete the quotation below that links to this theme.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you find these? This quotation is from the last chapter of the novel. Kathy's narrative contains lots of flashbacks and flashforwards, highlighting the importance of memory to her. These memories help her to look back on the relationships she built and it's these that give her life purpose.
  • Question 5

Ishiguro explores the idea of individual hopes and dreams being in conflict with society's expectations and what it has set out for its subjects.

 

Match the quotations below to the aspect of this theme being explored.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"Now that would be a proper place...
Dreams and hopes
"You were brought into this world...
Society's expectations
"You and Tommy, you've got to try...
Dreams and hopes
"Your life must now run the cours...
Society's expectations
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? Whilst the students learn of their true fate from Miss Lucy, quite early on in the novel, we still see their hopes and aspirations. In particular, Ruth is presented as a hopeful character. She searches for her "possible" and even as she is dying, is hopeful that Tommy and Kathy might get a deferral from being a donor if they prove they're in love. However, throughout the novel, Ishiguro also reminds us that the character's dreams are at odds with what this dystopian society has already determined for them. They have been cloned and born for the sole purpose of organ donation - their fate is already sealed.
  • Question 6

Which theme is explored by the following quotation?

 

concentration camp fence

 

"She'd been a Hailsham student until one day she'd climbed over a fence just to see what it was like outside."

CORRECT ANSWER
Confinement
EDDIE SAYS
The imagery related to fences and boundaries links to the theme of confinement. Students at Hailsham and other similar institutions don't have the freedom that normal humans do. We are reminded of the fact that they are not allowed outside of the boundaries of Hailsham and will be punished if they try. Ishiguro depicts this dystopian society controlling almost every aspect of the students' lives.
  • Question 7

Life and death are explored as central themes in 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

Ishiguro explores how people live their lives even with the knowledge that death is inevitable.

 

What does Kathy say at the end of the novel that epitomises this idea?

 

Write the quotation below as a full sentence with quotation marks.

CORRECT ANSWER
"I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be."
EDDIE SAYS
This is the last line of the novel. Having seen her best friends die, and knowing that her own fate will be the same, we get the sense here that Kathy has accepted her destiny and will continue to live life and follow the path that's set out for her. Ishiguro was interested in exploring the human condition and how we cope with the inevitability of death.
  • Question 8

Lies and deceit are explored in the novel as a contrast to the idea of truth and honesty.

 

Match the quotations below to the explanation of how they explore these themes.

CORRECT ANSWER
 Tommy is shown to value honesty and truth.Miss Lucy believed that students should be told the full truth.Miss Emily withholds the truth from students to protect them.
"I think Miss Lucy was right. Not Miss Emily."
"we sheltered you during those years"
"you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you"
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? Ishiguro sets Miss Lucy and Miss Emily up with contrasting attitudes. Miss Lucy goes against the system and wants to tell students the full truth about their purpose as donors and their ultimate fate. Miss Emily on the other hand, is keen to maintain the students' childhood innocence and withhold the truth for as long as possible. When Tommy and Kathy are told the truth at the end, Tommy seems to feel that he would've been better knowing the truth as a child. His anger seems to stem from the false hope he's been allowed to have and feels lied to.
  • Question 9

In the novel, we see students lose things and find things.

 

Which of the items below link to the theme of losing and finding things?

CORRECT ANSWER
Norfolk
'Never Let Me Go' tape
Friends
Hailsham
EDDIE SAYS
There are four that link to this theme... and there are more! Norfolk is presented as the place where all lost things end up! This is where Kathy finds her lost Judy Bridgewater tape. Kathy learns that Hailsham has closed and becomes worried that this will mean that her friendships and everything linking them together will be lost and forgotten. Indeed, it is the friendships that stay strong, despite the loss of so much else in the novel. Kathy finds her friends again in her capacity as their carer. The roads however, link to a different theme - about the loneliness of the carer's lives and indeed of the idea of predetermined journeys.
  • Question 10

The theme of donation is also key to the novel.

 

heart

 

How are students prepared at Hailsham for their life as organ donors? What do they have to give away?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
art
artwork
EDDIE SAYS
Students have to give away their artwork in the "exchanges". Here they display their creations to be bought by other students and can use their tokens to buy the artwork they like from other students. This act of donating something to someone else is shown to prepare the students for their adult lives where their sole purpose is to donate their vital organs.
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