Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Were you as sad as we were to find out that Madame's Gallery doesn't exist? Huge bummer. The biggest. And were you as rattled as we were when Kathy and her friends went into the art gallery in Norfolk only to find out that Ruth's "possible" couldn't really be her original clone model? Super huge bummer.
No matter which way you slice it, these two art galleries in Never Let Me Go definitely have some negative events attached to them.
The first art gallery we learn about is Madame's supposed Gallery, where the Hailsham students believe she displays their best art. But in the end, we find out that this Gallery doesn't really exist. There was a time when Madame and Miss Emily would display the students' art to raise funds to support Hailsham, but that time is long gone. To boot, when Kathy and Tommy learn that the Gallery doesn't exist, they also learn there are no deferrals. Zilch. Many dreams have been dashed, to say the least.
The second gallery is the one in Norfolk called "The Portway Studios." When Kathy, Ruth, Tommy, Chrissie, and Rodney are inside, they realize that Ruth's potential clone model just isn't the one: "But now, in that gallery, the woman was too close, much closer than we'd ever really wanted. And the more we heard her and looked at her, the less she seemed like Ruth. It was a feeling that grew among us almost tangibly, and I could tell that Ruth, absorbed in a picture on the other side of the room, was feeling it as much as anyone" (14.37). If we didn't know any better, we'd think art galleries were the most depressing places on earth. And hey, maybe they are for our characters.
But the art galleries aren't only associated with bad news. They are also connected with possibilities. When Kathy and her friends are children, just the idea of Madame's Gallery gives them something to dream about—something to maybe even look forward to. True, these hopes and dreams are eventually dashed, and you might say it was cruel of the guardians to allow these dreams to exist in the first place. But for most of their lives, Kathy and her friends can enjoy the belief that their artwork has an impact outside of Hailsham's walls.