Never Let Me Go - Extract 1

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at an extract from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is the first of two extract questions for Never Let Me Go. Tommy and Kathy have accompanied Ruth, Chrissie and Rodney to Norfolk, making a surprise discovery. Only three characters are present: Kathy, Tommy and the man who works in the shop. The friendship between the former Hailsham students develops a new depth here. Why? How do we know? Remember to read the passage through more than once before answering the questions. Think about how this passage relates to the themes of the novel. Which details are significant? What might be the reason behind the language chosen? What does the conversation tell us about the past and about Kathy’s memory of the event? And remember, it’s a good idea to practise several extract questions, so be sure to try the Extract 2 quiz as well!

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How to answer an extract question in an exam:

Be sure always to read the passage through more than once when preparing to answer an extract question. The first time you can aim for a broad understanding of the passage and how you might use it to answer the questions. On the second reading you can begin noting details and making annotations. Ask yourself why this passage has been chosen, why is it important? Pay attention to its place in the text. Does it introduce significant characters or significant themes? What happens afterwards? Does anything in the passage foreshadow later events? What changes? Think about the ending of the extract: why might it end where it does instead of somewhere else? What is significant about the final line?

In an exam, remember to consider exactly what the question asks. You might be asked to write about a particular character, or the mood and atmosphere of the passage. Perhaps you will be asked to discuss dialogue, behaviour or feelings. Always explain the passage’s immediate context: what events precede the extract? Pay close attention to the detail, to setting and characterisation. Think about how the passage relates to the themes of the text. Group related ideas together in your writing, but be sure to discuss the entire passage. Avoid writing about the first half of the passage in detail and then running out of time to write about the second half!

Read the extract from Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go below carefully before answering the questions.

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“Is that it?” He seemed genuinely sceptical, perhaps because I wasn’t making more fuss. I pulled it out and held it in both hands. Then suddenly I felt a huge pleasure — and something else, something more complicated that threatened to make me burst into tears. But I got a hold of the emotion, and just gave Tommy’s arm a tug.

“Yes, this is it,” I said, and for the first time smiled excitedly. “Can you believe it? We’ve really found it!”

“Do you think it could be the same one? I mean, the actual one. The one you lost?”

As I turned it in my fingers, I found I could remember all the design details on the back, the titles of the tracks, everything.

“For all I know, it might be,” I said. “But I have to tell you, Tommy, there might be thousands of these knocking about.”

Then it was my turn to notice Tommy wasn’t as triumphant as he might be.

“Tommy, you don’t seem very pleased for me,” I said, though in an obviously jokey voice.

“I am pleased for you, Kath. It’s just that, well, I wish I’d found it.” Then he did a small laugh and went on: “Back then, when you lost it, I used to think about it, in my head, what it would be like, if I found it and brought it to you. What you’d say, your face, all of that.”

His voice was softer than usual and he kept his eyes on the plastic case in my hand. And I suddenly became very conscious of the fact that we were the only people in the shop, except for the old guy behind the counter at the front engrossed in his paperwork. We were right at the back of the shop, on a raised platform where it was darker and more secluded, like the old guy didn’t want to think about the stuff in our area and had mentally curtained it off. For several seconds, Tommy stayed in a sort of trance, for all I know playing over in his mind one of these old fantasies of giving me back my lost tape. Then suddenly he snatched the case out of my hand.

“Well at least I can buy it for you,” he said with a grin, and before I could stop him, he’d started down the floor towards the front.

I went on browsing around the back of the shop while the old guy searched around for the tape to go with the case. I was still feeling a pang of regret that we’d found it so quickly, and it was only later, when we were back at the Cottages and I was alone in my room, that I really appreciated having the tape — and that song — back again. Even then, it was mainly a nostalgia thing, and today, if I happen to get the tape out and look at it, it brings back memories of that afternoon in Norfolk every bit as much as it does our Hailsham days.

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (Faber and Faber, 2005)

  1. What is the immediate context for this passage?
    Kathy has just refused to join Ruth, Chrissie and Rodney as they visit a friend. Tommy surprises Ruth by choosing to stay with Kathy
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    Tommy explains his theory that student artwork was collected in order to reveal their souls and that artwork could therefore prove that students had the capacity to love
  3. What does Tommy's first response to the finding of the tape reveal?
    Tommy reveals his old wish to find Kathy's lost tape, describing how he had imagined her pleasure when he returned it to her
  4. At which point does the mood shift most dramatically in this passage?
    The mood becomes tender and also rather tense after Kathy's recognition of Tommy's long-held feelings for her
  5. What does it mean when Kathy describes the old man as having "mentally curtained off" the back of the shop where the pair have been browsing?
    The old man's ability to block the sight of things he does not wish to consider stands for society's ability to do the same
  6. What is the meaning of Tommy's "small laugh"?
    Tommy's recollection is very emotional and although he laughs in an attempt to show that he is amused by his younger self, he is not very successful at hiding his real emotions
  7. This scene has an atmosphere of deep privacy. Which one of the following words or phrases does NOT contribute to this atmosphere?
    Kathy's experience of regret is related to her continuous sense of loss. By finding her tape, she has brought the afternoon's pleasure to an end too quickly
  8. After this afternoon, the tape holds new memories for Kathy in addition to the old memories. What does this demonstrate?
    Kathy often describes how new memories add to and overlay old memories
  9. In what way does this passage represent a turning point?
    The existence of the tape provokes Ruth into one of her most manipulative episodes, eventually resulting in Kathy deciding to leave the Cottages
  10. Kathy is nearly engulfed by her own emotions. What does her response tell us?
    Kathy often describes herself as getting control over her emotions

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