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Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Presentation of Themes in 'Never Let Me Go'

In this activity, students will evaluate the presentation of themes in 'Never Let Me Go', considering how they are presented by Ishiguro's use of language and structure and, how they reflect the key contextual factors surrounding the novel.

'Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Presentation of 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

 

experiment in science lab

 

For the highest marks in the exam, you need to show an excellent understanding of the relationship between the novel and the context in which it was written.

 

To show that you are writing about ideas in the novel in relation to context, you might use sentences such as:

 

Ishiguro presents the theme of ... to explore the ethical issues around the medical and biological developments that were happening at the time he was writing.

 

Ishiguro employs the genre conventions of realism and of dystopia in his writing to highlight ...

 

The theme of ... is presented by Ishiguro who had the intention of exploring the idea of the human condition.

 

 

For each theme explored, think:

How is the theme presented effectively to show us something about what was happening at the time Ishiguro was writing?

What were Ishiguro's intentions in writing the novel and what impact does this have on his reader?

 

Remember that you also need to closely analyse the techniques that Ishiguro uses to present these themes.

 

Now have a go at the following activity which will help you evaluate the effectiveness of the themes in the novel.

Ishiguro explores the theme of hopes and dreams in 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

We see Ruth dreaming about her future job and looking for her "possible"

 

What does Ishiguro suggest in the following quotation about "possibles"?

 

'If you want to look for possibles, if you want to do it properly, then look in the gutter. You look in rubbish bins. Look down the toilet, that's where you'll find where we all came from.' 

 

Click on the explanation below that explores this quotation in relation to the key contextual factors surrounding the novel.

Ruth explains that "possibles" will be found in the "gutter" because she feels that society wouldn't have allowed decent people to be cloned for the sole purpose of becoming organ donors. Ishiguro shows Ruth's lack of hope and disappointment after discovering the office worker who was potentially her possible, isn't like her at all

Ruth explains that "possibles" would be found in the "gutter". Here she highlights how decent people would not have been used as clones for the sole purpose of organ donation. Ishiguro opens up a moral and ethical debate here around the idea of cloning, using the dystopian world to warn of the dangers of cloning and whether it is right to play God and take away anyone's rights, no matter who or what they are

Ishiguro employs a dystopian society that has defined the purpose of the clones as organ donors only.

 

In the quotation below, what social/literary theory does Ishiguro explore?

 

"I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it's just too much. The current's too strong. They've got to let go, drift apart."

Consumerism

Social determinism

Nihilism

Ishiguro explores how humans need to hope and dream, despite knowing that they will eventually die. 

 

To what extent does Ishiguro suggest that Ruth loses all hope by the end of her life?

 

Which is the most accurate evaluation below?

Ruth is shown to have lost all hope when she says "It's just something I once dreamt about. That's all"

Ruth remains hopeful until the end when she begs Kathy saying "you've got to try and get a deferral" showing that she still believes there is a chance of happiness

Whilst Ruth slowly loses hope as she nears the end of her life, saying "It's just something I once dreamt about", Ishiguro also highlights how self-delusion is a way of protecting herself. She claims that she doesn't remember her dreams of working in an open plan office, suggesting that she has tried to forget this dream. However, Ruth slowly reveals in this chapter that while she pretends that she doesn't think of a different future, asking Kathy and Tommy to "try and get a deferral suggests that part of her still believes in something better for her friends, if not for herself

Ishiguro explores the importance of memories.

 

Complete the passage using the words below to evaluate the presentation of this theme in the novel.

- fantasy

- reminiscence

- loss

- non-linear

- friends

- condition

 

Ruth is shown to have lost all hope when she says "It's just something I once dreamt about. That's all"

Ruth remains hopeful until the end when she begs Kathy saying "you've got to try and get a deferral" showing that she still believes there is a chance of happiness

Whilst Ruth slowly loses hope as she nears the end of her life, saying "It's just something I once dreamt about", Ishiguro also highlights how self-delusion is a way of protecting herself. She claims that she doesn't remember her dreams of working in an open plan office, suggesting that she has tried to forget this dream. However, Ruth slowly reveals in this chapter that while she pretends that she doesn't think of a different future, asking Kathy and Tommy to "try and get a deferral suggests that part of her still believes in something better for her friends, if not for herself

Confinement and freedom is explored as a theme.

 

Match the following quotations to how they help present this theme.

Column A

Column B

"But we sheltered you during those years, and we g...
Freedom is represented by driving in the novel. Af...
"There were all kinds of horrible stories about th...
Ishiguro shows how fear became a psychological bar...
"they made sure to give us some sort of lecture ea...
Ishiguro explores how the confinement students exp...
"Because somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed...
The students are shown to have more freedom when t...
"Quite a few students wanted to be drivers of one ...
Ishiguro shows that the lectures at Hailsham were ...

The idea of humanity is explored in 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

Complete the passage below to evaluate Ishiguro's presentation of this theme.

- revulsion

- realism

- humane

- human

- feared

Column A

Column B

"But we sheltered you during those years, and we g...
Freedom is represented by driving in the novel. Af...
"There were all kinds of horrible stories about th...
Ishiguro shows how fear became a psychological bar...
"they made sure to give us some sort of lecture ea...
Ishiguro explores how the confinement students exp...
"Because somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed...
The students are shown to have more freedom when t...
"Quite a few students wanted to be drivers of one ...
Ishiguro shows that the lectures at Hailsham were ...

Ishiguro explores the idea of life and death.

 

What is the significance of Ishiguro's boat imagery in 'Never Let Me Go'?

 

Select the most effective analysis of this imagery below.

Ishiguro depicts the boat with paint 'cracking' and the timber frames 'crumbling' away. This evokes a feeling of something broken and decaying, very much similar to the lives of the clones at this point, whose bodies are suffering from their work as donors

The boat imagery is used to highlight the importance of freedom to the clones who live in an oppressive society

The boat imagery is used to represent the lives of the clones as donors

The Judy Bridgewater tape 'Never Let Me Go' has several different meanings in the novel.

 

Explore the different ideas Ishiguro presents by matching the quotations below to the analytical comment.

 

 "holding an imaginary baby to my breast.""I saw a new world coming rapidly. More scientific efficient yes....But a harsh cruel world.""I said to myself one day I'll go to Norfolk and I'll find it there for her.""Neither of you told me."
For Ruth the tape represents a connection between Tommy and Kathy that she isn't a part of and feels threatened by.
For Tommy the tape reflected his need to reconnect with Kathy.
For Kathy the tape represents holding onto human connection and emotion.
For Madame the song represented the cruelty of a world where science was advancing fast.

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 theme in the novel.

 

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

 

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

 

Task: How are ideas about deception explored in 'Never Let Me Go'? 

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

 

Now try this mini essay task...

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The following question is worded to encourage you to show evaluation - try to write 3 paragraphs and then a concluding paragraph where you write an evaluative summary to answer the 'To what extent...?' part. Here you should give your personal response!

 

To what extent does Ishiguro show the idea of lack of humanity in 'Never Let Me Go'?

 

  • Question 1

Ishiguro explores the theme of hopes and dreams in 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

We see Ruth dreaming about her future job and looking for her "possible"

 

What does Ishiguro suggest in the following quotation about "possibles"?

 

'If you want to look for possibles, if you want to do it properly, then look in the gutter. You look in rubbish bins. Look down the toilet, that's where you'll find where we all came from.' 

 

Click on the explanation below that explores this quotation in relation to the key contextual factors surrounding the novel.

CORRECT ANSWER
Ruth explains that "possibles" would be found in the "gutter". Here she highlights how decent people would not have been used as clones for the sole purpose of organ donation. Ishiguro opens up a moral and ethical debate here around the idea of cloning, using the dystopian world to warn of the dangers of cloning and whether it is right to play God and take away anyone's rights, no matter who or what they are
EDDIE SAYS
The second one links to context by exploring the moral/ethical debate Ishiguro explores. Remember that during the 1990s, just before the novel was published, the world saw the Dolly the sheep clone and stem cell research develop. The biological and medical developments were fast-moving and caused controversy. Ishiguro uses a dystopian society to explore the ethical/moral questions around these scientific developments, showing a world just one step on, that has cloned humans. The focus on the clones coming from "trash" forces us to look at whether it is ever right to play God in this way. Indeed, this also leads us to question the idea of cloning on animals. They might be at the bottom of our society but does this mean they don't have rights? Through the idea of "possibles", Ishiguro asks - what makes it ok to clone someone/thing?
  • Question 2

Ishiguro employs a dystopian society that has defined the purpose of the clones as organ donors only.

 

In the quotation below, what social/literary theory does Ishiguro explore?

 

"I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it's just too much. The current's too strong. They've got to let go, drift apart."

CORRECT ANSWER
Social determinism
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? Think of the "current" as a metaphor for society in this quotation. Ishiguro presents the idea that the forces of society are the most powerful force and the free will of people in society has no strength against these forces. Here Ishiguro presents the idea of social determinism. By using a dystopian society he explores a society where people have a predetermined purpose - to be cloned. The clones do not seem to have any power to resist this purpose or change their fate.
  • Question 3

Ishiguro explores how humans need to hope and dream, despite knowing that they will eventually die. 

 

To what extent does Ishiguro suggest that Ruth loses all hope by the end of her life?

 

Which is the most accurate evaluation below?

CORRECT ANSWER
Whilst Ruth slowly loses hope as she nears the end of her life, saying "It's just something I once dreamt about", Ishiguro also highlights how self-delusion is a way of protecting herself. She claims that she doesn't remember her dreams of working in an open plan office, suggesting that she has tried to forget this dream. However, Ruth slowly reveals in this chapter that while she pretends that she doesn't think of a different future, asking Kathy and Tommy to "try and get a deferral suggests that part of her still believes in something better for her friends, if not for herself
EDDIE SAYS
All of these are true to some extent but the last one is the best evaluation - it looks at the different aspects of Ruth's attitude to life. Ishiguro explores the idea of the human condition specifically, how we deal with the inevitability of death. He presents the clones using a psychological realism to draw parallels to human life. He shows how hopes and dreams create meaning and purpose in a life where death is inevitable. Whilst Ruth pretends not to dream anymore, she still hopes for a better future for Tommy and Kathy. Tommy even states that Ruth "always wanted to believe in things".
  • Question 4

Ishiguro explores the importance of memories.

 

Complete the passage using the words below to evaluate the presentation of this theme in the novel.

- fantasy

- reminiscence

- loss

- non-linear

- friends

- condition

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? For the highest marks in the exam, it's important to explore the structural devices used as well as language techniques. The non-linear narration is important to Kathy's story; it shows how she's constantly trying to maintain her link to the past, by reminiscing about her life at Hailsham and the cottages. This narrative structure also helps Ishiguro create a kind of psychological realism to his dystopian novel. He presents his clones as real in this way, with the same emotions as humans which forces us to question the moral and ethical questions around the idea of cloning even more! Think about what else is lost in the novel.
  • Question 5

Confinement and freedom is explored as a theme.

 

Match the following quotations to how they help present this theme.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"But we sheltered you during thos...
Ishiguro explores how the confine...
"There were all kinds of horrible...
Ishiguro shows how fear became a ...
"they made sure to give us some s...
Ishiguro shows that the lectures ...
"Because somewhere underneath, a ...
The students are shown to have mo...
"Quite a few students wanted to b...
Freedom is represented by driving...
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to match them all? Remember that Ishiguro wanted to depict a dystopian society to warn his readers of what might happen in real life if science developed one step further, allowing humans to be cloned. Ishiguro portrays a society that uses oppression to control the clones; whilst at Hailsham, the physical boundaries confine the clones inside the fences of the school and prevent them from interacting with the outside world. Notice how much imagery relates to World War I concentration camps. What does this suggest about the social powers of this society? However, Ishiguro highlights that psychological barriers are just as strong; the guardians build fear in the students so that when they have relative physical freedom to interact with the outside world, they are scared to do so and don't know how to! Ishiguro depicts a dystopian society to warn his readers about what happens when people decide to play God and decide the fate of others.
  • Question 6

The idea of humanity is explored in 'Never Let Me Go'.

 

Complete the passage below to evaluate Ishiguro's presentation of this theme.

- revulsion

- realism

- humane

- human

- feared

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you manage to fill all the spaces? Remember to link all of your ideas about characters/ themes to the key contextual factors. For the highest marks, write about ideas in the novel and context together. Think about what Ishiguro intended - what message did he want to convey? Also, think about his reader - remember that at the time of publication, the issue of cloning and stem cell research was a current topic under debate, with lots of controversy and media attention. Indeed, medical and biological developments remain a controversial topic today with more and more advances seen every day.
  • Question 7

Ishiguro explores the idea of life and death.

 

What is the significance of Ishiguro's boat imagery in 'Never Let Me Go'?

 

Select the most effective analysis of this imagery below.

CORRECT ANSWER
Ishiguro depicts the boat with paint 'cracking' and the timber frames 'crumbling' away. This evokes a feeling of something broken and decaying, very much similar to the lives of the clones at this point, whose bodies are suffering from their work as donors
EDDIE SAYS
The first one's the best analysis! It analyses the language used and considers the effect of this. Ishiguro uses boat imagery to represent the lives of clones. Notice how there's a sense that the boat once had a useful purpose but is now "beached" and broken. In a similar way, the clones lives had purpose to help others but as they fulfil each donation their lives become lonelier and they become weaker. Through this dystopian society, Ishiguro explores the moral and ethical questions around cloning, showing what could happen if science developed one step further to allow this to happen.
  • Question 8

The Judy Bridgewater tape 'Never Let Me Go' has several different meanings in the novel.

 

Explore the different ideas Ishiguro presents by matching the quotations below to the analytical comment.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
 "holding an imaginary baby to my breast.""I saw a new world coming rapidly. More scientific efficient yes....But a harsh cruel world.""I said to myself one day I'll go to Norfolk and I'll find it there for her.""Neither of you told me."
For Ruth the tape represents a connection between Tommy and Kathy that she isn't a part of and feels threatened by.
For Tommy the tape reflected his need to reconnect with Kathy.
For Kathy the tape represents holding onto human connection and emotion.
For Madame the song represented the cruelty of a world where science was advancing fast.
EDDIE SAYS
'Never Let Me Go' has multiple meanings in the novel - these are just some! Of course, Ishiguro explores the loss of humanity in the world of scientific advancement - Madame's reaction to the song certainly reflects this idea. For the clones, their reaction to the tape, very much emphasises their human qualities. Tommy, Kathy and Ruth are all desperate for human connections. Ishiguro explores that its human connection that makes life meaningful, despite the inevitability of death.
  • Question 9

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 theme in the novel.

 

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

 

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

 

Task: How are ideas about deception explored in 'Never Let Me Go'? 

 

Try to write 3 paragraphs.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Miss Emily and Miss Lucy are shown to have opposing views about truth and deception. Miss Emily explains that she was "sheltering" the students by not giving them full information about their fates. The use of the verb here evokes the idea of protecting the students and maintaining their childhood innocence. In contrast, Miss Lucy tells the students that "you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you", valuing the importance of a sense of identity in life. Ishiguro intended to write about the human condition and by drawing parallels between the clone's lives and human lives through his mix of dystopia with psychological realism shows that despite knowing that death is inevitable, we still build meaningful lives. Afterall, despite knowing the full truth about their fates, the clones still built meaningful human connections.
  • Question 10

Now try this mini essay task...

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The following question is worded to encourage you to show evaluation - try to write 3 paragraphs and then a concluding paragraph where you write an evaluative summary to answer the 'To what extent...?' part. Here you should give your personal response!

 

To what extent does Ishiguro show the idea of lack of humanity in 'Never Let Me Go'?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
A paragraph might look something like this: Ishiguro employs the dystopian genre to depict an oppressive society that defines the purpose of clones as organ donors. In his depiction of Hailsham, Ishiguro uses imagery of confinement, evocative of World War II concentration camps to highlight the way in which this society removed the basic human right of freedom. The students tell stories of "hands and feet chopped off" for going beyond the boundaries, violent imagery conveying the fear that the powers probably instilled to maintain the oppression of the clones. The inhumane treatment is further explored through Madame's fear of the clones. Ishiguro describes her "real dread" and the clones make a comparison to the "way someone might be afraid of spiders." This use of comparison highlights not only the inhumane way the clones were treated but the way they were viewed. Of course, through the use of psychological realism, Ishiguro highlights the very human qualities of the clones, drawing parallels between clone and human life, particularly through the relationships the students build. Here he highlights the danger of a world where people forget to look at things with a sense of humanity when scientific development becomes more important than human rights. This moral question would have been very relevant to his readers at the beginning of the 21st century who would have recently seen huge developments in medical and biological sciences in the 1990s.
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