Never Let Me Go - Setting

This GCSE English Literature quiz looks at the setting in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. The setting of a work of fiction includes its location and the time in which the events take place. Context, such as those events which occur in the background, providing the text’s wider fictional world, is also a key component of its setting. Atmosphere, too, plays an important role in establishing setting.

It is important to spend some time considering the setting of any text you study. The world in which the characters live impacts the decisions which they make over the course of the plot. The effect of political or social events on characters can usually be seen in their reported thoughts, behaviour and dialogue.

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In Never Let Me Go, scientific development and the use of cloning to provide human organs for transplant creates the context for the constricted lives of Kathy, Tommy, Ruth and the other Hailsham clones. We do not see many of the clones who were located at other sites as children, although Kathy occasionally reports on her interactions with them. Although the world in which this text is located is imaginary, it also feels very real. How is this sense of reality created and how does it affect the reader’s understanding of the text?

Geographical setting can include country, environment, the buildings where events occur, and even the weather. Do all the events occur in the same place? Do characters travel, or arrive from elsewhere? How does the interaction of characters with their environment create meaning in the text?

It can also be useful to think about when the text is set and if that differs from the time it is written. Find out why an author might choose to set a text in the past, present or future. Does this change our understanding of the story?

Answer the questions below on setting in Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

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  1. Never Let Me Go is set in which country?
    Locations mentioned in the text include Dover, Norfolk, and Littlehampton
  2. Kathy spends much of her time in which of the following places?
    Kathy also frequently mentions her bedsit. Many of these places are lonely spots where Kathy can wander through her memories
  3. Which of the following best describes the mood at the beginning of the novel?
    Although beginning wearily, the text moves rapidly to a nostalgic tone
  4. How does Kingsfield become "precious" to Kathy?
    Human relationships give meaning to Kathy's life; her memories of physical locations are infused with recollections of people important to her
  5. When is the novel set?
    Kathy narrates the novel from her present life in the 1990s, recalling events taking place throughout her childhood, teens and early adulthood in the 70s and 80s
  6. What is Hailsham?
    Although it is not named as a school, Hailsham has students who practise sports and spend time learning. We, like Kathy, never discover the location of Hailsham
  7. What is represented by the woods with which Hailsham is surrounded?
    The outer world's mistrust of clones represents a danger to the students
  8. What prompts the turn to a more nostalgic mood in the first chapter?
    The dying donor wishes to share Kathy's recollections of a seemingly-idyllic childhood in Hailsham
  9. Which of the following does NOT describe Kingsfield, Tommy's recovery centre?
    The donors share a sense of community, gathering in the Square, but the environment shows a lack of care for the donors. Kathy contrasts this negatively with Ruth's recovery centre
  10. Kathy indulges in her memories while driving. Which of the following best describes the landscape through which she drives?
    Kathy's loneliness is emphasised by the manner in which she describes the landscape through which she passes. Even when she stops to investigate a place, perhaps because it seems familiar to her, she gives the impression that the place itself is abandoned

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