Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Art and Culture

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Art and Culture

Chapter 2
Kathy H.

"An Exchange would come along and we'd be standing there torn between Susie K.'s poems and those giraffes Jackie used to make."

"Jackie's giraffes," Ruth said with a laugh. "They were so beautiful. I used to have one." (2.24-25)

Animals sure do pop up a lot in this book, especially when the students are creating art. These giraffes remind us of Tommy's childish elephant drawing and the imaginative animals he draws when he's older.

Chapter 3
Kathy H.

The gallery Tommy and I were discussing was something we'd all of us grown up with. Everyone talked about it as though it existed, though in truth none of us knew for sure that it did. I'm sure I was pretty typical in not being able to remember how or when I'd first heard about it. Certainly, it hadn't been from the guardians: they never mentioned the Gallery, and there was an unspoken rule that we should never even raise the subject in their presence. (3.51)

Is it just us, or does Kathy have trouble remembering when she learned anything at this so-called school? This moment has us thinking about how Kathy doesn't remember when she first learned about donations. For some reason, Kathy's selective memory loss kicks in on both occasions.

If Tommy had genuinely tried, she was saying, but he just couldn't be very creative, then that was quite all right, he wasn't to worry about it. (3.14)

At Hailsham, Tommy has trouble getting into a creative groove. The poor guy feels like everyone blames him for his lack of artistic talent. But at least he has one guardian, Miss Lucy, in his corner.

Chapter 9
Miss Lucy

"Listen, Tommy, your art, it is important. And not just because it's evidence. But for your own sake. You'll get a lot from it, just for yourself." (9.39)

Miss Lucy has had a change of heart and tells Tommy that he can't neglect his artwork. Fair enough, people change their minds all the time. But it would be nice if Miss Lucy could give us a tad more information here. What do you think Miss Lucy means when she's says Tommy will get a lot from his art? And do you think her prediction comes true?

Chapter 10
Kathy H.

Once I'd spotted this, I began to notice all kinds of other things the veteran couples had taken from TV programmes: the way they gestured to each other, sat together on sofas, even the way they argued and stormed out of rooms. (10.15)

Those veteran couples are such copycats. It's not clear if the veterans are deliberately copying the TV shows or if it's accidental. Either way, even in this world where clones exist, TV plays an important role in shaping the culture at the Cottages. How else are they going to figure out how to behave? It's not like they had normal upbringings.

Chapter 14
Kathy H.

Actually, preoccupied though I was with Ruth's possible, I did begin to enjoy the paintings and the sheer peacefulness of the place. It felt like we'd come a hundred miles from the High Street. […] Maybe it was the tiredness suddenly catching up with us—after all, we'd been travelling since before dawn—but I wasn't the only one who went off into a bit of a dream in there. (14.37)

Art can have an escapist quality. At "The Portway Studios" in Norfolk, Kathy makes the art gallery sound like a dream world. Looking at the paintings is a way for her and the others to escape from reality, even if just for a little while.

Chapter 15
Tommy D.

"The thing is, I'm doing them really small. Tiny. I'd never thought of that at Hailsham. I think maybe that's where I went wrong. If you make them tiny, and you have to because the pages are only about this big, then everything changes. It's like they come to life by themselves. Then you have to draw in all these different details for them." (15.89)

Tommy wants to make his imaginary animals "come to life" and he thinks he's found the secret ingredient: making them teeny tiny. Well, we guess we won't ask Tommy to paint a life-sized mural any time soon.

"She told Roy that things like pictures, poetry, all that kind of stuff, she said they revealed what you were like inside. She said they revealed your soul." (15.61)

Tommy remembers when Miss Emily finally told Roy why their artwork matters so much: because it has soul-revealing properties. Do you agree with Miss Emily? Is art a window into your soul? Or into your mind? Or maybe your heart?

Chapter 22
Miss Emily

"You said it was because your art would reveal what you were like. What you were like inside. That's what you said, wasn't it? Well, you weren't far wrong about that. We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all." (22.19)

Wow, this is a hefty role for art to play. Does this mean that if the students are bad artists, then they have lesser souls? That doesn't seem quite fair. Unfortunately, Miss Emily doesn't explain her theory in detail. Just like she doesn't explain, oh, anything.

"That was why we collected your art. We selected the best of it and put on special exhibitions. In the late seventies, at the height of our influence, we were organising large events all around the country. […] 'There, look!' we could say. 'Look at this art! How dare you claim these children are anything less than fully human?' Oh yes, there was a lot of support for our movement back then, the tide was with us." (22.24)

Miss Emily firmly believes that art proves humanity (although we think it shouldn't require that much). Here she and Madame use art as propaganda for the pro-clone movement. Does this make for effective campaigning? According to Miss Emily, the art worked like a charm… at least for a little while.