Explore Kathy’s Narration In Never Let Me Go And What It Reveals Regarding The Importance Of Memory As A Source For Narrative

1865 words - 8 pages

When memory is used as a source for narrative in literature many of the essential qualities of conventional narratives are lost. However, Kathy’s narrative voice in Never Let Me Go is by no means exclusive, it instead resonates on a universal level; each individual’s memories are fundamental in forming their identity. The supposed unreliable aspects of Kathy’s narration are only unreliable in so far as they present an intimate portrait of this universal experience.
Of the novel’s many focuses, Ishiguro is certainly interested in the workings of memory. Kathy’s retrospective narrative voice demonstrates the very human struggle to define ourselves and our identities, a relationship between ...view middle of the document...

The suspicion felt by the reader towards Kathy is tempered by sympathy; it adds another dimension to the novel that makes the narrator even more compelling. This sympathy stems from admiration; Kathy remains positive in the face of her manufactured existence. Unreliable narration, as a writing device, depends upon the existence and use of what is called the implied author. Seymour Chatman states that the implied author ‘is not the narrator, but rather the principle that invented the narrator, along with everything else in the narrative...’ (Chatman, 1978: 148). The implied author is significant because it plays a major role in the success of unreliable narration; this kind of narrator emerges when there is a disjunction between the narrator and the implied author (Chatman, 1978: 233). What Jakob Lothe terms as the ‘artificial authority’ of the narrator is undermined by the presence of the implied author and what is ‘read between the lines’ (Lothe, 2000: 25) leads one to question the legitimacy of the narrative voice. In this case Chatman’s definition doesn’t apply; there is nothing in Chatman’s criticism that accounts for a necessarily unreliable narrator, a narrator that proclaims her fallibility. The unreliable narration is simply a tool that Ishiguro uses to explore psychological aspects of memory.
The openness of intent and awareness of natural limitations that Kathy demonstrates says much about her character. Early in the novel Kathy says ‘this was all a long time ago so I might have some of it wrong’ (Ishiguro, 2006: 13); this is the narrator acknowledging that some of her narration may be unreliable. Unlike other unreliable narrators across literature, Kathy cannot be accused of deception or of holding an unsavoury motive; she is aware of her shortcomings but is compelled to share her story anyway. This admission is, ironically, very human. In this case, the inevitability of Kathy’s narrative perspective gains the sympathy of the addressee. Mark Freeman states that ‘all interpretations are fictions’ (Freeman, 1993: 30); taken further, Freeman is saying that meaning is often imposed where there is no clear meaning, no individual can conceive an absolutely factual recounting of their past.
Having established that the fallibility of memory is universal, we are forced to concede that there is no agenda behind the narrative direction. Instead, Kathy is attempting to make sense of these events as best she can. The psychological principles that Freeman and Lothe present may even support the claim that there is no such thing as an unreliable narrator; or rather everyone is equally vulnerable to re-writing and revising the past. An aspect of Kathy’s narration that does become an issue is the necessarily subjective view we are presented with, namely, Kathy’s view of the experiment she was a part of at Hailsham. Ishiguro doesn’t seem to be interested in the specifics of morality in science, the novel deals more directly with the characters...

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