Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Memory and the Past

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Memory and the Past

If one thing is clear in Never Let Me Go, it's that Kathy is obsessed with the past: with Hailsham, her erstwhile friends, her old cassette tape, all of it. In fact, she's so into her past experiences that she barely tells us anything about her present life. Instead, almost the entire novel is a series of flashbacks. But why is it so important for Kathy to look back over her life? Well, for one thing, all of her old friends are gone, so they exist only in her memory. Looking backwards is one way Kathy can cope with all the things she's lost over the years.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. What's the difference between remembering the past and living in it? What side of the divide does Kathy fall on?
  2. How do Kathy's reminiscences affect the way she deals with the present?Ā 
  3. Is Kathy more concerned with her memories than she is about her future? Or are the future and her memories somehow linked?
  4. How do shared memories work in the novel? Can shared memories bring people together? Or do shared memories only serve to point out how we all remember the same event differently?

Chew on This

Memories give Kathy power. Reminiscing about her past is the only way Kathy can deal with her present and look forward to her future.

Memories are Kathy's downfall. Kathy avoids really facing her present and future life by completely living in the past.