Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Judy Bridgewater Cassette Tape
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Do you have an object that you've held onto since childhood? We sure do. Maybe yours is a stuffed animal, a blankie, or a meaningful toy. For Kathy, this special object is her Judy Bridgewater cassette tape, Songs After Dark. She loves this tape maybe more than she loves anything else in the entire book, including Tommy. Okay, maybe not.
But why is this tape so important to Kathy? And what does it represent? There are oodles of reasons why Kathy cares so much for this cassette. Here are three possibilities, in Shmoop's eyes:
Oh the Memories
For starters, music has a super powerful relationship with memory. Sometimes just listening to a song can take us back to a different time and place. For Kathy, listening to Judy Bridgewater brings back two really important memories:
(1) Her days at Hailsham, when she loved to listen to Judy Bridgewater while alone in her dorm room.
(2) The time she and Tommy found the tape again while they were in Norfolk.
Once Kathy has lost her friends and her childhood home, at least she still has the tape to remind her of the good old days.
Lost and Found
The sad fact is that Kathy's list of lost items is a long one: the tape, Hailsham, Ruth, and eventually Tommy. It's important that the Judy Bridgewater tape is the first thing to drop away. When the cassette goes missing at Hailsham, Kathy is definitely not a happy camper. Sadly, this first loss foreshadows the many other losses she'll have throughout the book.
For most of the things and people Kathy loses, there seems to be no possibility of finding them again. The good news is that the Judy Bridgewater tape is the exception. When she finds the tape in Norfolk, Kathy is happy as a clam and feels like they've never been apart. Amid all the loss Kathy goes through, finding the tape again might be a reminder that even though something is lost, maybe just maybe it can still be found.
In her real life, Kathy has super complicated friendships. There's almost always a misunderstanding or a squabble happening with Ruth and Tommy. In contrast, Judy Bridgewater may be the best friend around. When Kathy finds the tape again in Norfolk, she says it feels like she has an old pal back again: "Judy Bridgewater. My old friend. It's like she's never been away" (15.99). Aw, that's sweet. And strange.
We could go on for ages about this tape. In fact, we do keep going on about it in "Brain Snacks," where you can see if Judy Bridgewater might exist in real life (spoiler alert: she doesn't). But now it's your turn. What else do you think the tape could represent?