The quest to find one’s identity and have a sense of individuality is rampant in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. The humanistic urge to have purpose is embodied in the characters of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth very differently. They each know that their life’s purpose is to donate until “completion,” yet on the way there they explore themselves and find out there is more to each of them than their vital organs, even if that is how society has labeled them.
The three main characters, clones who are lepers of Ishiguro’s dystopian society, attempt to find purpose in their existence beyond containers of vital organs. The clones’ background at Hailsham gave them insight into culture, art, and the world for everyone else but there identity was always predetermined as was their fate. They may have experienced sensations of existentialism through art and life experiences but they were destined to donate and that was all. Their true identities lived and died with the people they connected with, both at Hailsham and in those they met on their paths to completion.
“My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years” (1). Kathy’s whole existence is summed up in these opening nineteen words. No family. No desire. Simply Kathy H. the thirty-one year old carer for the past eleven years. This is the first line in the entire novel and it sets the tone very quickly as to the status of the clones. They are made from “trash” to provide organs. The final line of the novel is as follows. “I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be” (288). Her entire existence in the novel is bookended by two quotes that articulate her insignificance. In between the pages from which the two quotes come from Kathy experiences joy, love, and loss. But her life is tied to donations and while she had an identity as a friend, carer, lover, etc. it all goes away when the connections she had concluded.
Kathy and the clones knew they were different from the “regular” humans, but to what extent, they had no idea. “We certainly knew- though not in any deep sense- that we were different 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). Despite the fact that the clones knew their true purpose, they stayed unsatisfied and continued their search for an individual identity.
Many of the clones believed that if they found their “possible,” or person they were cloned from, they would be able to figure out who they were. “Nevertheless, we all of us, to varying degrees, believed that when you saw the person you were copied from, you'd get some insight into who you were deep down, and maybe too, you'd see something of what your life held in store” (140). However, once they were cloned from these people they no longer had anything to do with their original. “There were some who...