Never Let Me Go: The Creation of Kathy’s Identity
The thoughtful formation of identity is a significant part of Hailsham life, and as a narrator, Kathy shares her doubts while consciously searching for the aspects of her personality that could answer her queries about her life at Hailsham. Kathy’s search is divided into her actions, uniqueness, as well as key events like art and donations that help shape her identity. Amongst these three quests, she constantly seems to blame her personality for her deeds. Hence, exploring her distinctiveness and questioning herself “what makes me so different?”. Due to the integral nature of art and donation in Hailsham students’ lives, Kathy is compelled to investigate how it influences her character. In Never Let Me Go, author Kazuo Ishiguro demonstrates the ways in which the search for identity can be a conscious process through her uniqueness, actions and events such as donations and art that help shape her identity.
Kathy is mindful of the fact that students at Hailsham are unlike those in the outside world in terms of their personalities. However, she doesn’t understand the meaning behind it, “We certainly knew–though not in any deep sense–that we were different from our guardians, and also from the normal people outside; we perhaps even knew that a long way down the line there were donations waiting for us. But we didn’t really know what that meant” (69). Kathy is aware that Hailsham students were distinctive from “the normal people outside” and “didn’t really know what that meant”, illustrating how she was unable to comprehend the state of being unalike as believed that she could possibly connect their uniqueness to her soul. In addition, Kathy believes that her search for identity has been everlasting and there are still missing pieces she needs to discover. As she recalls, “Thinking back now, I can see we were just at that age when we knew a few things about ourselves–about who we were, how we were different from our guardians, from the people outside–but hadn’t yet understood what any of it meant” (36). This uncovers the journey that Kathy has witnessed when she claims that she “hadn’t yet understood what any of it meant”, indicating a lack of understanding of their differences. This obliviousness is concerning to Kathy, as she realizes that she needs to find her deeper self before it’s too late. By referring to these past events, Kathy is showing that she is constantly attempting to search for herself, as “we knew a few things about ourselves” demonstrates the struggle for Kathy in her search and a constant attempt. As Kathy is unaware of the fact that makes them unique, it leads her to questioning constantly the ideas and searches for the aspect of her identity that makes them stand out.
Kathy believes that her development as a person influences the way she conducts herself. Which accordingly, obliges her to explore the causes behind those actions. When Kathy experiences strange feelings, she responds in an amusing manner, saying, “I get these really strong feelings when I want to have sex. Sometimes it just comes over me and for an hour or two it’s scary. […] That’s why I started thinking, well, it has to come from somewhere. It must be to do with the way I am” (179). Since she finds the feeling quite strange, she knows that, “It must be to do with the way I am”, suggesting that her personality is responsible for her deeds. This indicates how Kathy’s always aware of the link between the two, however is unable to figure out the way in which association. Another way in which she connects her actions to her identity is through the idea blame. When she says, “Something in me just gave up. A voice went: ‘All right, let him think the absolute worst. Let him think it, let him think it.’ And I suppose I looked at him with resignation, with a face that said, ‘Yes, it’s true, what else did you expect?’” (195). The lingering thought in her mind that makes her feel guilty for breaking apart the friendship between Ruth and Tommy leads her to associate this guilt with her personality. Since Ruth and Tommy are of great significance to her, their separation evokes gloominess inside her, which can be seen when she cries, “something in me just gave up”. Ishiguro deliberately uses “something in me” contrary to the usual saying of “I give up”, to underline the impact of her actions on her internal consciousness. Overall, Kathy is uncovering what might have caused that aspect of her identity to give up, leading her to blames her actions for the she happens to be.
Even though Kathy sees how activities like art and donation positively help shape their identities, she strives to find a link between the two. Despite the fact that donations have always been considered to be of utter importance to the life at Hailsham, Kathy still displays uncertainty towards the idea of being donors. This idea is witnessed when she states, “About us, about how one day we’ll start giving donations. I don’t know why, but I’ve had this feeling for some time now, that it’s all linked in, though I can’t figure out how” (29). Kathy acknowledges the fact that by being a Hailsham student, she is obliged to give donations. Despite knowing the fact that donating is an essential practice, she is oblivious as to how it helps construct their identities. Another key aspect of Hailsham life is art, from the very beginning, students have been taught that it helps discover their identities. However, once again Kathy is unable to apprehend the connection between them. When Miss Lucy reveals, “ ‘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.’ ‘Hold on. What did she mean, ‘evidence’?’ ‘I don’t know. But she definitely said that’ ” (92). After Tommy shares Miss Lucy’s words with Kathy, she quite visibly becomes more curious and intrigued by it, particularly when she questions, “What did she mean”. Miss Lucy’s words inspire Kathy to use art as a medium to express herself, which forges her to find a link between the two. To brief, for the students of Hailsham, donations and art are used as an important tool to develop their identities. These mandatory rituals lead Kathy to explore the influence of the two mediums on her.
In Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro examines the different ways in which the search for identity could be a conscious process. He successfully does this through the help of Kathy’s uniqueness, actions and events such as donations and art, all of which contribute in the shaping of her identity. Throughout the novel, she consciously wonders about the relation between her physical actions, obligations, and personality to her identity. She often shares these feelings and doubts with the readers, indicating how her search for identity is a conscious process. Overall, Kathy represents the students at Hailsham as a whole, revealing that she is definitely not the only one to struggle and overcome the loss of identity.
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The thoughtful formation of identity is a significant part of Hailsham life, and as a narrator, Kathy shares her doubts while consciously searching for the aspects of her personality that […]