Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Freedom and Confinement

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Freedom and Confinement

Chapter 5
Kathy H.

The woods were at the top of the hill that rose behind Hailsham House. All we could see really was a dark fringe of trees, but I certainly wasn't the only one of my age to feel their presence day and night. (5.4)

Wow, those woods sound super creepy. Having woods constantly staring down at you doesn't seem like much fun. Notice how, for Kathy, the discomfort the woods conjure up in her is physical: she can "feel their presence." We have to agree; thinking about these eerie woods is giving us the heebie-jeebies. No wonder all the kiddos stayed put.

Chapter 7
Miss Lucy

"It's just as well the fences at Hailsham aren't electrified. You get terrible accidents sometimes." (7.5)

One day during class, Miss Lucy tells her students that the Hailsham gates aren't electrified. We have to admit, it seems a little extreme to keep children surrounded by electrified fences. Why is that even a consideration here?

Chapter 10
Kathy H.

Of course, in practice, especially during the first months, we rarely stepped beyond the confines of the Cottages. We didn't even walk about the surrounding countryside or wander into the nearby village. I don't think we were afraid exactly. (10.9)

This sounds like a recipe for cabin fever. Unlike Hailsham, the Cottages have no gates whatsoever. So why don't Kathy and her friends go exploring? If they're not afraid, why don't they venture out?

If we were honest, though, particularly near the beginning, most of us would have admitted missing the guardians. […] But this was one thing we'd been told over and over: that after Hailsham there'd be no more guardians, so we'd have to look after each other. (10.7)

Moving from Hailsham to the Cottages means leaving the guardians behind. Now there's no one to tell Kathy and her pals how to spend their days, no one to discipline them if they break the rules. It's kind of like moving away for college. Party time! Ah, but not so fast. Even though there are perks to this freedom, Kathy and her chums actually miss their old teachers… and maybe even their rules. Out here in the great wide open, they only have each other. And maybe that's not quite enough.

Chapter 13
Kathy H.

It had turned into a crisp, sunny day, and my memory of it is that for the first hour we all felt so exhilarated to be out and about we didn't give much thought to what had brought us there. At one point Rodney actually let out a few whoops, waving his arms around as he led the way up a road climbing steadily past rows of houses and the occasional shop, and you could sense just from the huge sky, that you were walking towards the sea. (13.7)

Kathy and her friends finally take advantage of their newfound independence with the road trip to Norfolk. Everything about Kathy's description says freedom: Rodney's cheering, the big huge sky, the communal good mood. Maybe this group should get out more often.

Chapter 18
Kathy H.

I thought about Hailsham closing, and how it was like someone coming along with a pair of shears and snipping the balloon strings just where they entwined above the man's fist. Once that happened, there'd be no real sense in which those balloons belonged with each other any more. (18.37)

If someone cuts these balloon strings, then the balloons will float away. Be free, balloons! But here, that level of freedom isn't a good thing. Kathy doesn't want to be completely untethered. It sounds like being completely free might also mean feeling pretty lonely.

But I do like the feeling of getting into my little car, knowing for the next couple of hours I'll have only the roads, the big grey sky and my daydreams for company. And if I'm in a town somewhere with several minutes to kill, I'll enjoy myself wandering about looking in the shop windows. (18.5)

As a carer, Kathy has a ton of freedom. This lifestyle sounds completely different from the fear Kathy feels when she first moves to the Cottages. Check out how Kathy mentions the "big grey sky." She likes to point out the sky when she's outside and enjoying her little bit of liberty.

Chapter 19
Kathy H.

Then we came to a barbed wire fence, which was tilted and rusted, the wire itself yanked all over the place. When Ruth saw it, she came to an abrupt halt.

"Oh no," she said, anxiously. Then she turned to me: "You didn't say anything about this. You didn't say we had to get past barbed wire!"

"It's not going to be difficult," I said. "We can go under it. We just have to hold it for each other." (19.18-20)

While trying to get to the stranded boat, our favorite trio comes across this fence. Ruth feels a lot of fear, even though in the end it's not difficult to get through. Why does this fence make her so afraid? Ultimately, all conquering the fence takes is a little teamwork.

Chapter 22

"But do you see what we were up against? We were virtually attempting to square the circle. Here was the world, requiring students to donate. While that remained the case, there would always be a barrier against seeing you as properly human." (22.28)

Sometimes barriers are psychological rather than physical. Here, public opinion about the clones creates a fence that even superhuman Miss Emily can't plow through. People in the outside world don't want to see clones as real human beings. So they've set up a mental wall with proper humans on one side, and clones on the other. Sounds like it's going to be nearly impossible for the clones or their supporters to ever break out of this barrier. Here's hoping there's a sequel with a healthy dose of revolution.

Chapter 23
Kathy H.

I found I was standing before acres of ploughed earth. There was a fence keeping me from stepping into the field, with two lines of barbed wire, and I could see how this fence and the cluster of three or four trees above me were the only things breaking the wind for miles. All along the fence, especially along the lower line of wire, all sorts of rubbish had caught and tangled. (23.49)

This is the last fence we see in the book. It's definitely significant that this fence is in Norfolk, since that's such an important place for Kathy. Did you notice how this fence isn't the cleanest? What do you think this trash might represent?