… the subject exists within a world that is thoroughly temporal, and – in the case of the character-subjects in “Never Let Me Go” – a narrative that is rendered specifically knowable by and through this temporality. A narrator is thereby forced to use language whereby what is usually referred to as “the passing of time” can be, if not marked, than simply (or at least) known. The language utilized by the Kathy H. character-narrator to couch her subjects in time is therefore indicative of an understanding of time that exemplifies a possible practice of knowing time. The latter follows from the former precisely because the narrative practice is informed by the above-mentioned ethical ethos, one that takes time for a specific intent and purpose, an intent and purpose that is more fully articulated as time – and the narrative – “goes on.”
There are two primary methods by which time is (explicitly) made known in the text, and they are loosely analogous to an objective time (time as that in which we exist) and subjective time (time as exemplified by significant events in the life of a subject). Both are structural, and work towards the overall problematization of time, in tandem with the non-linearity of the narrative. The first, “objective,” method is through the evocation of time markers that are easily conceivable as non-linear: the time of day and the seasons. As markers of time that occur “in nature,” and that constantly repeat themselves, these terms are often conceived of as cyclical, but only in relation to each other, as a system of repetition. They are rarely mentioned together, as such a system, but are evoked simply to couch the subject somewhere – or somewhen – in time. The second, more subjective, mode of time knowing involves the constant and endless evocation of the ordinal. Whether it is the students first or third year at Hailsham, or a subjects first, second, or third “donation,” all events of significance are couched within this ordinality, giving the narrative – together with the use of the above mentioned natural markers – a sense of being placed within a sequence, but a non-omniscient sequence – we never know exactly what comes before or after anything that is described as being the first, second, or third of its kind. These two methods of marking time work together to provide a picture of time that is conceptually analogous to the narrative jumbling mentioned above, and together work to create various mutations of forms of problematizations for knowing time, as exemplified in the following excerpt:
We were having this conversation on a fine summer evening, sitting out on the little balcony of her recovery room. It was a few months after her first donation, and now she was over the worst of it, I’d always time my evening visits so that we’d be able to spend a half hour or so out there, watching the sun go down over the rooftops.
Between the “cyclical” and ordinal terms are multiplied the beginnings of a time further problematized, in the line “a few months after,” in which the naked form of a less natural time-marking term is coupled with the implied ordinality of the word “after;” or the use of the word time in a verbal mode. The subject situated in such time is the subject that is located in and as a process, a process that does not evince a simple linearity, but that is “linear in every direction” (Deleuze and Guattari, 5). These overwhelming temporal problematizations not only work to reveal the ethical import of temporal conceptualizing for the subject caught “in” time, but create for the narrative a sense of suspense, even if it is mild, that exists in the vacuum of the possibilities of what is to come next.