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"Never Let Me Go" Themes

Introduction to the Assignment
Building on the research skills you developed in our last unit, this assignment will call on you to locate credible sources and apply them to an argument you make about Never Let Me Go. As with your last essay, you will have the freedom to choose your own topic, however, you will have to refine that topic into an argument you defend through textual analysis. In addition to required drafts (see the syllabus for deadlines), you will also be required to compose an annotated bibliography.

Assignment Instructions
The primary source of your essay is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, but you will also draw on 3-4  secondary sources for support. These sources can be academic journal articles, book chapters, or other credible materials discovered in the Rutgers University library system:

Your secondary sources should pertain to your topic. In other words, your sources should not be
literary analyses or discussions of the author (Kazuo Ishiguro) or his work ( Never Let Me Go ). If you are in doubt about the relevance of a source, please do not hesitate to reach out to me:

Papers must be 6-8 pages long, correctly use MLA format, and include a Works Cited page.


Possible Topics
1. The children at Hailsham are “special” because they are born and raised specifically for organ donation. What argument does the novel make about cloning humans for organ donation? And how do these arguments compare to the debate among bioethicists today?

2. One of the most peculiar aspects of the novel is that the children never seem to fight their chosen future or try to escape their fate. How does this novel address the difficulty surrounding attempts to escape the boundaries of social class and/or caste systems? And to what extent do real-life caste systems support the novel’s perspective?

3. Many children of Hailsham look for their “possibles.” How does current research on the value and/or flexibility of the family unit support, complicate, or refute the impact of the relationships in the novel?

4. Despite (or perhaps because of) the clone’s infertility, sex plays a significant role in the novel. Does the clones’ ability to have sex without consequences contribute to the students’ social status as lesser beings? Using research on perception of promiscuity, and/or infertility, analyze the ways sexual behavior influences social standing.

5. The children of Hailsham refer to themselves as “students,” but in many ways the education they receive is very different from what we would expect of a traditional school. What kind of education do the students receive at Hailsham, and what real-world lessons can it teach us about the way various types of knowledge, especially creativity, are valued in education?



  • Conformity
  • Dehumanization
  • Identity Crisis
  • Medical ethics
  • Memory and Nostalgia
  • Personal Identity / Identity Crisis
  • The psychology of groups and social hierarchies
  • The role of art in education 
  • Sexuality

Isolated Communities *

The characters in Never Let Me Go live and grow up in a self-contained community that is isolated from the larger society.

This isolation is one of the book's significant themes.  You might think about groups of people in our own society that live in various degrees of isolation, whether by choice or not:  

  • Religious groups that isolate themselves by choice, through geography or religious observance
  • Monastic communities
  • Certain orthodox Jewish groups
  • Historical groups such as the Shakers, 
  • Communes, utopian communities, ecovillages, and other intentional communities
  • Groups that are involuntarily isolated:  prisons, reform schools, mental hospitals, orphanages

* With thanks to Roberta Tipton


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