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Never Let Me Go - Extract 2

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a closer look at a particular extract from Kazuo Ishiguro’s book Never Let Me Go. This is the second of two extract questions for Never Let Me Go. It takes place during an English Literature lesson on poetry, perhaps poetry about the Second World War, since the topic arises during the lesson. The only dialogue in the passage is spoken by Miss Lucy and the entire event is filtered through Kathy’s watchful perception, related by her thirty-one-year-old self. Why does no one else speak? Why does no one else notice Miss Lucy? How would you explain the hysterical behaviour of the students? Read the passage through at least twice before answering the questions. When answering, pay very close attention to the details of this particular passage while considering how these details relate to the themes of the novel as a whole.

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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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That talk with Tommy beside the pond: I think of it now as a kind of marker between the two eras. Not that anything significant started to happen immediately afterwards; but for me at least, that conversation was a turning point. I definitely started to look at everything differently. Where before I’d have backed away from awkward stuff, I began instead, more and more, to ask questions, if not out loud, at least within myself.

In particular, that conversation got me looking at Miss Lucy in a new light. I watched her carefully whenever I could, not just from curiosity, but because I now saw her as the most likely source of important clues. And that’s how it was, over the next year or two, I came to notice various odd little things she said or did that my friends missed altogether.

There was the time, for example, maybe a few weeks after the talk by the pond, when Miss Lucy was taking us for English. We’d been looking at some poetry, but had somehow drifted onto talking about soldiers in World War Two being kept in prison camps. One of the boys asked if the fences around the camps had been electrified, and then someone else had said how strange it must have been, living in a place like that, where you could commit suicide any time you liked just by touching a fence. This might have been intended as a serious point, but the rest of us thought it pretty funny. We were all laughing and talking at once, and then Laura — typical of her — got up on her seat and did a hysterical impersonation of someone reaching out and getting electrocuted. For a moment things got riotous, with everyone shouting and mimicking touching electric fences.

I went on watching Miss Lucy through all this and I could see, just for a second, a ghostly expression come over her face as she watched the class in front of her. Then — I kept watching carefully — she pulled herself together, smiled and said: “It’s just as well the fences at Hailsham aren’t electrified. You get terrible accidents sometimes.”

She said this quite softly, and because people were still shouting, she was more or less drowned out. But I heard her clearly enough. “You get terrible accidents sometimes.” What accidents? Where? But no one picked her up on it, and we went back to discussing our poem.

There were other little incidents like that, and before long I came to see Miss Lucy as being not quite like the other guardians. It’s even possible I began to realise, right back then, the nature of her worries and frustrations. But that’s probably going too far; chances are, at the time, I noticed all these things without knowing what on earth to make of them. And if these incidents now seem full of significance and all of a piece, it’s probably because I’m looking at them in the light of what came later — particularly what happened that day at the pavilion while we were sheltering from the downpour.

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

  1. What is the immediate context for this passage?
    Although Kathy explains that her memories of her later years at Hailsham are darker, the final memories of childhood which she recollects are disquieting, including the lost tape, Miss Lucy's admission about smoking, and the episode when Madame discovers Kathy dancing
  2. What immediately follows this passage?
    When younger, the students were reluctant to ask questions, even when Miss Lucy explained why they should not smoke. Now that they are older, Miss Lucy firmly rebukes them for indulgently dreaming of an impossible future
  3. Which conversation with Tommy does Kathy regard as a "turning point"?
    Miss Lucy's reassurance that creativity was not so important, alongside her comment that the students should be taught more about donations set Kathy and Tommy wondering about the mysterious practices at Hailsham, especially Madame's habit of collecting art for her Gallery
  4. What is significant about the use of the word "hysterical"?
    While they are also amused at the mounting disorder in the classroom, this disorder is provoked by the fear the students have trouble controlling
  5. How does Miss Lucy's response relate to the students' literature lesson?
    Miss Lucy becomes less and less able to teach the students as though they have a normal future before them
  6. Which of the following phrases does NOT demonstrate Kathy's observant nature?
    Kathy notices details which other students miss
  7. What does Miss Lucy mean by her comment about the Hailsham fences?
    Miss Lucy immediately connects the student's question about suicide with what, to her, seems a logical response to the students' situation. Her use of the word "accident" is ironic, referring to how the suicides would be described euphemistically
  8. Miss Lucy speaks softly here. Why is that significant?
    Miss Lucy loses her job soon after she speaks openly to the students. At this point, her soft tone of voice demonstrates her conflicting wishes: either to follow the Hailsham way, or to ensure the students completely understand the truth
  9. Which of the following sentences best explains why Kathy is the only student listening to Miss Lucy?
    Kathy listens closely to Miss Lucy because she has begun to question everything she knows or has been taught about herself and the other clones
  10. "It’s even possible I began to realise, right back then, the nature of her worries and frustrations. But that’s probably going too far; chances are, at the time, I noticed all these things without knowing what on earth to make of them." How does Kathy's reflection relate to the themes of the novel?
    Throughout the novel, Kathy is careful to present the truth, according to her memories, often correcting herself when she realises that her later understanding of an event could not match her initial impressions. The novel ends with Kathy deciding that her memories will not fade and cannot be lost

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