Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
This novel is chock-full of animal imagery. Here are some of the creature and critter moments that stood out to Shmoop:
- Tommy's childish elephant drawing in Miss Geraldine's class
- The giraffes Kathy's friend Jackie makes at Hailsham
- The way Kathy compares herself and her friends to spiders when they test to see if Madame is scared of them
- Tommy's "imaginary animals" that he begins drawing at the Cottages. He works on these drawings for years, and brings some to Madame when he and Kathy request a deferral. Keep an eye out because Tommy's animal drawings keep popping up.
A lot of this animal imagery relates to creativity and the imagination. Students at Hailsham repeatedly paint and sculpt animals. Kathy tells us that Tommy's adult animal drawings are especially imaginative and complex: "The first impression was like one you'd get if you took the back off a radio set: tiny canals, weaving tendons, miniature screws and wheels were all drawn with obsessive precision" (16.14). What do you think of these creative, mechanical animals?
So we've got oodles of artistic animals in the book, but here's the funny thing: we never actually see any real animals. It's a subtle reminder of the divide that exists between humans and clones. In reality, they're no different. Clones are filled with organs, sinews, veins—all that jazz. And they clearly have souls. But they're being treated like animals, or even machines, who can be chopped up for parts whenever it's needed.