Time period

Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go is set during an alternate version of the late 20th century. While the main story takes place in the 1990s, Kathy narrates events from when she was a child. Since Kathy is thirty-one, this would probably be the late ‘70s-early ‘80s. There are also references to the ‘50s and the period after World War II when “ ‘the great breakthroughs in science followed one after another so rapidly, there wasn’t time to take stock, to ask sensible questions’ ” (Chapter 22, 33%). This explains why Ishiguro’s society has chosen the arguably unethical practice of making clones to harvest their organs. 

Kathy’s story goes back and forth in time, over a period of more than 20 years. Kathy describes her early childhood as an idyllic period. It was a “golden time” (Chapter 7, 1%). This could be because Kathy sees this period under the influence of her nostalgia. This was a time when she was relatively innocent and could enjoy life without worrying about the future. However, the period starting from when Kathy is 13 to when she is 16 and must leave Hailsham is described in different terms. This time is perceived as “serious and darker” (Chapter 7, 1%). This shows that Kathy is now old enough to understand what her future will be like, and therefore she is probably afraid, even though she never acknowledges it directly.

The time setting is sometimes vague and Kathy cannot remember when exactly some things happened. When she talks about her early years, Kathy often jumps from one event to another in no particular order and she only gives vague time references. However, at other times, Kathy specifies the exact time. For example, the last time Kathy sees Tommy is “just after one o’clock, on a crisp December afternoon” (...

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