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Never Let Me Go - Context
Why is the outside world afraid of the clones?

Never Let Me Go - Context

This GCSE English Literature quiz looks at the context of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Context is very similar to setting. You might even think of it as the author’s setting. The context for any particular text means the environment in which it was written. Context includes social issues, geographical location and political events, some of which are contemporary to the author and other which are from the recent past. The author’s personal beliefs also provide some context for any work of fiction.

How to write about context

It is important to understand the context of a fictional work because of the effects which this has on the meaning of text.

The relationship between the two can be complicated, however. History itself is complex and does not dictate the meaning of any text. Instead, the context of a work is mediated through the mind and aims of the author.

When writing about context, pay the closest attention to the text itself. What does it say about history, about politics, or about social issues? This is what is important. It can be useful to research a novel’s context. What was happening at the time it was written? What were the lively public debates of the time? Understanding context can help you better understand the meaning of the text or of the issues it raises. Context is not everything, of course, and good texts continue creating meaning long after the time when they are written.

Remember to distinguish between the setting of the text and its context. Even a text which is set in a time and place very close to that when it was written will be affected by the difference between setting and context. Thinking about the relationship between the two will help you to understand the text more deeply.

Research the context of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, remembering everything you have learned in English lessons, and try these questions to see how much you know.

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1.
The clones are trained to be entirely selfless. Which of the following terms best expresses this aspect of their education and expectations of themselves?
Creative
Carer
Veteran
Completing
Carers in modern British society are undervalued and underpaid for their work. The use of the word implies both duty and a sense that people who engage in such work are naturally selfless
2.
When was Never Let Me Go first published?
1985
1995
2005
2015
The events of the novel are set in the very recent past; Kathy narrates from the late 1990s
3.
Kathy worries that other carers might be envious of her bedsit. Why is this significant?
Kathy feels sorry for herself
A bedsit is an extravagantly luxurious form of accommodation
Kathy is deluded in thinking that any other carers might be jealous of her
To be so grateful for a bedsit implies that a person has very low expectations of life
A bedsit is a single-roomed accommodation which includes a place to cook. Kathy's accommodation is only luxurious in comparison to prison cells and hospital wards, or a small room in a large institution. Her gratitude for the bedsit tells us immediately about her character and the world she inhabits
4.
Why is the outside world afraid of the clones?
The clones might rebel against the purpose society has assigned them
The clones confront the world with their humanity
The clones could have been created as genetically superior
All of the above
Society easily turns away from its most unpleasant sub-layers. In the novel, the outside world wishes to treat the clones as the products of factory farming, reducing them to their function as containers for spare parts. Interacting with clones forces people to see them as human and to confront the inhumanity of a social system reliant on reducing humans to their body parts
5.
With its sports pavilion, large grounds and dormitories, Hailsham resembles which of the following?
A British public school
A prison
A university
A small village
Like a public school, Hailsham is a place of privilege, and it is clear that its students see themselves in this way. This impression makes the realisation that the only privilege on offer is that of a ''normal'' childhood all the more devastating
6.
Organ donation sometimes takes place when a patient's brain no longer functions, but the body is kept on life support. This statement gives some context for which of the following concerns?
Madame worries about touching the clones
Ruth is convinced that their "possibles" were not respectable citizens
Tommy and Kathy worry about the importance of creativity
Tommy and the other donors worry about the meaning of "completion"
Organ donation can be voluntarily undergone during life, such as when donating a kidney, or upon accidental or sudden death. Sometimes in these cases the person is still on life support. Tommy fears that he might be kept alive during endless organ removal after his fourth donation
7.
Kathy's description at the end of the novel of the rubbish caught up in a barbed wire fence can easily be imagined since it is a familiar sight across Britain, especially in windy sites. What might this familiar image represent?
The freedom of young people to decide their own futures
The revision of history through focussing only on negative events
Britain's loss of self-belief
Society's creation of - and wilful blindness to - rubbish
Although for Kathy the sight represents all that she has lost, the fact that what is precious to her is rubbish to the rest of the world is important. The outer world is responsible for creating a life which can be so easily disposed of
8.
Why is the very ordinary setting of this novel significant?
It reminds the reader of the unpleasantness of late-twentieth-century Britain
Readers always better enjoy novels with comfortable settings
It challenges the reader to consider whether atrocities take place every day while people look away
A novel can only be considered "dystopian" if it takes place in a familiar environment
By setting the novel in a very familiar context, Ishiguro challenges his readers to consider the hidden injustices happening in modern Britain, especially those benefitting some people at the great expense of others
9.
Which one of the following is related to the "Morningdale scandal" which eventually causes the closure of Hailsham?
Eugenics
IVF
Immigration
Misogyny
Eugenics is the practice of breeding individual specimens with more desirable genes, aiming to improve a species over time. Plants and domesticated animals have long been subjected to this treatment. Attempts to extend the practice to human beings have been responsible for some of the darkest episodes in human history as well as provoking (and continuing to provoke) profound ethical disagreements
10.
Which of the following historical events is most closely linked to the context for the cloning programme in the novel?
The birth of the first "test tube" baby in 1978
The birth of Dolly the sheep in 1996
The closure of Hailsham School in 1992
All of the above
Dolly the sheep was cloned and born healthy in 1996, marking a major success for research into cloning
Author:  Sheri Smith

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