Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
First Person (Central Narrator)
Kathy tells us her own story, so she's a first-person narrator. She looks back over her life from the perspective of her thirty-one-year-old self, and tries to remember all her most important experiences (and there are a lot).
Kathy makes her first-person point of view clear from the first two sentences: "My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years" (1.1). And our girl Kath keeps this perspective up with each trip down memory lane.
For example, check out how Kathy reacts after Madame catches her listening to "Never Let Me Go": "When I got back to my friends a few minutes later, I didn't tell them anything about what had happened. […] What I wished more than anything was that the thing hadn't happened at all" (6.55). Kathy doesn't tell her friends anything about this incident for years. But because we're inside Kathy's perspective, we get the inside scoop on what really went down and how she really feels about it.
There are some ups and downs to being so up-close-and-personal with Kathy's deepest darkest thoughts. The good news is that we get to know Kathy really well because we're always inside her head. The downside is that we don't get to see anything that Kathy doesn't see. So if you're curious about where the guardians sleep or what Ruth and Tommy talk about when no one is around, well, you're out of luck. Kathy's only human (well, you know, clone-human), so she doesn't get to read others' minds or be in multiple places at once.
There's another downside to this first-person point of view: Kathy's memory loss. It's no secret that Kathy doesn't have perfect recall. (Go check out the "Memory and the Past" theme if you—dare we say it?—can't remember how bad Kathy's memory can be). She often admits that she might not remember everything accurately, or that another character remembers the same event differently.
All this memory loss gets us wondering: Can we really trust Kathy to be a reliable narrator? She sure does seem a bit shaky on the details sometimes. And would this story have different facts if it were told by another character who might remember things differently? Shmoop's take? Definitely.