This page looks at the key themes in the novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Human Cloning and Ethics
Cloning is obviously the major theme in Never Let Me Go. The novel was published in 2005, 10 years after the World woke up to the fact that Human Cloning could be a possibility. In 1995 Scottish Scientists successfully created the first Animal Clone “Dolly” the sheep. This feat sent shock waves around the World and continues to cause debate today. Dolly was cloned by scientists who had taken a cell from an adult sheep, fused it with another sheep’s unfertilized egg and created an identical twin. The huge media attention that this development created focused on speculation and anxiety about man’s ability to manipulate biology, or in the language of tabloid newspapers of the day, ‘play God’. The story of Dolly reveals something of the tension between politics, ethics and science and relates closely to the growing and ongoing controversy about embryonic stem cell research. This debate plays to our greatest fears or highest hopes.
By the time the novel was published most countries had already outlawed human cloning but some scientists still worked on cloning technology and the first hybrid human clone was created in 1998. The embryo that was created was then destroyed.
The novel does not tell us anything about the science of human cloning or how, this society which appears to be similar to our own, it was ever thought ethically acceptable to rear children as clones for the only purpose to harvesting their organs, so that others can continue to live a healthy life.
Loss and Mortality
Kathy narrates the novel as a series of memories as the clock counts down to her own “completion”. Everyone she has ever had a real connection with has died and she knows she will suffer the same fate as her friends. The novel could be said to be a consolidation of her thoughts as she is forced to contemplate her own mortality.