Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go Chapter 10 Summary
How It All Goes Down
- Shmoopers and Shmoopettes, welcome to Part 2. The time has come for us to adjust our flashback scenery, because Kathy is now giving us memories with fresh new surroundings. While we spent a lot of time in Part 1 popping back to Hailsham, at the beginning of Part Two we go back to the Cottages instead.
- See, when it was time for the students to leave Hailsham, they were scattered all over the place. Kathy and seven others went to the Cottages, but other students ended up in places called "Poplar Farm" or "White Mansion."
- While they had classes at Hailsham, their main task during the approximately two years they'll spend at the Cottages is to write an essay on a topic of their choosing. We're thinking this may be the longest, vaguest deadline in the history of essay writing. Actually it sounds a lot like a dissertation.
- Kathy chooses to write her essay on Victorian novels. In some ways, the essays don't seem like that big of a deal. But when they first arrive at the Cottages, working on the essay is a way to still feel connected to Hailsham. That place may have been full of mystery, but at least it was home.
- And the Hailsham students didn't exactly move up in the real estate market when they moved to the Cottages. You see, the Cottages might sound cute and quaint, but they are actually the remains of a run-down farm that's been converted into living quarters. So they are cold and damp, and generally crummy.
- But at least Kathy gets to stick with her friends, because Ruth, Tommy, and the rest of their group all get moved together. Plus they also discover new friends when they meet the people who have already been living in the Cottages for a while. They call these folks the "veterans."
- Another difference between Hailsham and these new digs is that the Cottages have no guardians. Instead they have Keffers, a crabby old man who brings them supplies every few days. They might've preferred a nice teacher like Miss Geraldine to this grouchy dude.
- During the early days at the Cottages, Kathy and her friends are pretty cautious about wandering far from the farmhouses. They also feel like the awkward new kids who don't know how to exist without guardians and strict mealtimes.
- But eventually this new-kid discomfort wears off and Kathy ends up really enjoying her time there. The days don't have any particular schedule, so she gets to spend her time reading on the grass, debating philosophy over breakfast, and sometimes watching an American show on the TV. Now that's the life.
- Kathy, being a pretty observant lass, notices that lots of the veterans are imitating the manners of the characters they see on TV. They copy all sorts of things from the way they talk to the jokes they act out. But hey, who hasn't fallen victim to a little TV imitation?
- Ruth starts copying some of her gestures from the veteran couples. When she's with Tommy (yep, they're still a couple) Ruth does this weird thing where she taps his arm just above the elbow. This elbow tapping is all the rage among the veterans, probably because it comes from a TV show. And now Ruth is doing it, too. Which of course pushes Kathy's buttons like whoa.
- Kathy's annoyance comes to a head one afternoon while she's reading Daniel Deronda. Ruth interrupts Kathy's lovely reading time by showing off her knowledge about the novel and recapping its plot.
- Apparently it was considered a sign that you were settling in well at the Cottages if you were getting lots of reading done. As much as we love reading, we have to admit that this logic doesn't really make sense. And Kathy says so herself. Nonetheless, just like how everyone at Hailsham pretended they'd had sex whether or not they had, now everyone pretends they've read lots of books.
- On this particular afternoon, Ruth has her nose high in the air. She pretends to have read Daniel Deronda, but Kathy ain't havin' it. So she abruptly changes the subject and asks Ruth why she always does the elbow tapping thing to Tommy.
- This starts one of those fights between Kathy and Ruth where neither gal is really listening to the other one. Each lady just wants to get her own point across.
- Kathy's point is that the elbow tap is just something that happens on TV. It isn't how people act in "normal life" and she doesn't want Ruth to think she's acting like a real family would (10.24).
- Ruth's totally unrelated counterpoint is that Kathy must be jealous (okay, maybe it's not that unrelated). Ruth has made friends with the older veteran couples, like Chrissie and Rodney, while Kathy hasn't.
- Then Ruth throws in this accusation that really gets Kathy steamed: "Come to think of it, I suppose you haven't been that slow making friends with at least some of the veterans" (10.34). Whatever this means (and we're not sure yet), it gets Kathy mad enough that she stalks off.
- So Kathy and Ruth don't come to any conclusion, or really even listen to one another. But based on their track record in these sorts of confrontations, we're not really that surprised.
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