Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Quotes

  • Identity

    Chapter 1
    Kathy H.

    My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years. (1.1)

    Kathy tells us three things about herself here: her name, her age, and her job. Right off the bat, we're wondering what the deal is with this "H." Why doesn't Kathy have a last name—just an initial? Plus, it seems pretty important that Kathy mentions being a carer when she first describes herself. Sounds like her job might be a really important part of her identity.

    Chapter 2
    Kathy H.

    Everything—the walls, the floor—has been done in gleaming white tiles, which the centre keeps so clean when you first go in it's almost like entering a hall of mirrors. Of course, you don't exactly see yourself reflected back loads of times, but you almost think you do. (2.26)

    The recovery center at Dover sounds just like a fun house at a fair. Having your image reflected all over the walls might be a little off-putting, but it does point out how important mirrors are. Inside the tiled walls at the recovery center, Kathy can't really escape seeing herself everywhere, which is a constant reminder of her fate.

    Chapter 3
    Kathy H.

    So you're waiting, even if you don't quite know it, waiting for the moment when you realize that you really are different to them; that there are people out there, like Madame, who don't hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you—of how you were brought into this world and why—and who dread the idea of your hand brushing against theirs. The first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it's a cold moment. It's like walking past a mirror you've walked past every day of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else, something troubling and strange. (3.73)

    Kathy doesn't like seeing herself through Madame's eyes. It's no fun to realize that other people are disgusted by you. Plus, realizing what Madame thinks of her seems to change the way Kathy thinks about herself.

    Chapter 12
    Kathy H.

    Nevertheless, we all of us, to varying degrees, believed that when you saw the person you were copied from, you'd get some insight into who you were deep down, and maybe too, you'd see something of what your life held in store. (12.12)

    According to this theory, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Or the clone doesn't fall far from her "possible." So finding your model would be like getting a cheat sheet for your own identity. But what part of your identity will you get to discover when you find this model? And what do you think Kathy means by the phrase "deep down"? Maybe she means she'll learn more about her personality. Or her soul. Or her DNA?

    There were some who thought it stupid to be concerned about possibles at all. Our models were an irrelevance, a technical necessity for bringing us into the world, nothing more than that. It was up to each of us to make of our lives what we could. (12.13)

    There's definitely a mix of dependence and free will in the clones' very existence. On the one hand, they rely on their model as a "technical necessity." Without their model, they wouldn't be alive at all. But on the other hand, once they've been made, the clones have to fend for themselves. Chances are, they'll never see their model again.

    Chapter 14
    Kathy H.

    Her hair was darker than Ruth's—though it could have been dyed—and she had it tied back in a simple pony-tail the way Ruth usually did. She was laughing at something her friend in the red outfit was saying, and her face, especially when she was finishing her laugh with a shake of her head, had more than a hint of Ruth about it. (14.22)

    Kathy and her friends are looking for signs that this woman might be Ruth's possible: her hair color, her mannerisms, even her ponytail. Are these the bits that make up identity? Or are they looking for the wrong clues?

    Chapter 15
    Kathy H.

    "It's just that sometimes, every now and again, I get these really strong feelings when I want to have sex. […] That's why I started thinking, well, it has to come from somewhere. It must be to do with the way I am." I stopped, but when Tommy didn't say anything, I went on: "So I thought if I find her picture, in one of those magazines, it'll at least explain it. I wouldn't want to go and find her or anything. It would just, you know, kind of explain why I am the way I am." (15.110)

    Kathy has questions about her body and she wants answers. So where else would she go looking besides the original body that she was cloned from? But really—what can that body tell her? It seems like Kathy might not realize that your environment has a lot to do with who you are and how you behave. Just look at what an effect Hailsham had on her.

    Tommy D.

    "It's not worth getting upset about," Tommy went on. […] "Our models, what they were like, that's nothing to do with us, Kath. It's just not worth getting upset about." (15.4)

    It shouldn't surprise us that Tommy has a unique perspective. While most of the characters really want to know who their "possible" might be, Tommy is different. He sees himself as entirely separate from his clone model. Clearly Tommy values his independence.

    Chapter 21
    Kathy H.

    I don't know if she recognised us at that point; but without doubt, she saw and decided in a second what we were, because you could see her stiffen—as if a pair of large spiders was set to crawl towards her. (21.12)

    When Madame sees Kathy and Tommy outside her house, she has the same reaction she did so many years before. It's almost as if Madame isn't sure if Kathy and Tommy are human at all. How would this sentence be different if Kathy had replaced the phrase "what we were" with "who we were"?

    Chapter 22
    Kathy H.

    I realised, of course, that other people used these roads; but that night, it seemed to me these dark byways of the country existed just for the likes of us, while the big glittering motorways with their huge signs and super cafés were for everyone else. (22.86)

    Check out how Kathy sets up a contrast here between "other people" and "the likes of us." It's as if she's segregated the roads for different types of people. Well, this kind of thinking makes one thing clear: Kathy sure does see herself as different from the rest of society.

  • Memory and the Past

    Chapter 1
    Kathy H.

    Or maybe I'm remembering it wrong. (1.16)

    Sometimes—okay, a lot of times—memory plays tricks on us. But this confession doesn't exactly inspire our confidence in Kathy as a storyteller. If she can't even remember her story, how are we supposed to trust her?

    Driving around the country now, I still see things that will remind me of Hailsham. I might pass the corner of a misty field, or see part of a large house in the distance as I come down the side of a valley, even a particular arrangement of popular trees up on a hillside, and I'll think: "Maybe that's it! I've found it! This actually is Hailsham!" (1.8)

    Kathy really wants to find her old digs. While driving, Kathy likes to reminisce about Hailsham and keep an eye out for it, just in case. In fact, we might even say Kathy is obsessed with finding her old home. Look at how excited she is when she thinks she's found it! Three exclamations!

    Chapter 4
    Kathy H.

    I won't be a carer any more come the end of the year, and though I've got a lot out of it, I have to admit I'll welcome the chance to rest—to stop and think and remember. I'm sure it's at least partly to do with that, to do with preparing for the change of pace, that I've been getting this urge to order all these old memories. (4.1)

    Do you find it funny that Kathy says she wants to "order" all these old memories? To us, they are almost always out of order. Kathy's flashbacks are jumbled together and she likes to hop between them at random. But then again, maybe Kathy didn't mean she wanted to order her memories chronologically, but with some other system.

    Chapter 7
    Kathy H.

    The earlier years—the ones I've just been telling you about—they tend to blur into each other as a kind of golden time, and when I think about them at all, even the not-so-great things, I can't help feeling a sort of glow. (7.1)

    Looks like Kathy's wearing a big old pair of rose-colored glasses when she's looking at the past. To be fair, it does sound like Hailsham was a pretty awesome place to grow up.

    Chapter 9
    Kathy H.

    I saw Harry fleetingly a couple of years ago at the recovery center in Wiltshire. […] I suppose there's no reason I should have any special place in his memory. We'd never had much to do with each other apart from that one time. To him, if he remembered me at all, I'd just be this daft girl who came up to him once, asked if he wanted sex, then backed off. (9.8)

    Kathy understands that Harry may remember their experiences together differently than she does. In fact, she's been going on about Harry for pages and how important he was to her decision to have sex. In contrast, Harry might not remember Kathy at all. Even though they probably have shared memories of Hailsham, this is a reminder to Kathy that not everyone's memories are the same.

    Chapter 10
    Kathy H.

    But then again, when I think about it, there's a sense in which that picture of us on that first day, huddled together in front of the farmhouse, isn't so incongruous after all. Because maybe, in a way, we didn't leave it behind nearly as much as we might once have thought. Because somewhere underneath, a part of us stayed like that: fearful of the world around us, and—no matter how much we despised ourselves for it—unable quite to let each other go. (10.13)

    Kathy and her friends all have a tough time letting go of their shared past. What do you think of the image Kathy gives us here? To us, it sounds a bit like nesting dolls. Not only can the huddling friends not leave the past behind, but it's as if they keep their past selves tucked "somewhere underneath" their current ones.

    Chapter 11
    Kathy H.

    I suppose, in general, I never appreciated in those days the sheer effort Ruth was making to move on, to grow up and leave Hailsham behind. (11.16)

    Moving on can be hard to do. Ruth tries to move on from Hailsham by getting rid of her "collection." We can't imagine Kathy doing something like that. Kathy isn't exactly known for her ability to let go of the past. Why do you think Ruth is so intent on severing ties with Hailsham? What makes her so different from Kathy in that respect?

    But when I think about it now, I can see things more from Ruth's viewpoint. (11.16)

    For Kathy, hindsight is 20/20. She's often so wrapped up in her own head, that she doesn't see things from anyone else's point of view. But when she's looking backward, Kathy gains a bit more insight. She's finally able to understand what other people might have been thinking.

    Chapter 22
    Kathy H.

    "There was a time you saw me once, one afternoon, in the dormitories. There was no one else around, and I was playing this tape, this music. I was sort of dancing, with my eyes closed and you saw me."

    "That's very good. A mind-reader. You should be on the stage. I only recognised you just now. But yes, I remember that occasion. I still think about it from time to time."

    "That's funny. So do I." (22.67-69)

    While they are standing in front of Madame's house, Kathy realizes that she and Madame are both remembering the same thing. Both ladies have thought about the dancing girl a lot over the years. In many ways, they share this memory together, which is kind of sweet.

    Chapter 23
    Kathy H.

    I was talking to one of my donors a few days ago who was complaining about how memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don't go along with that. The memories I value most, I don't see them ever fading. I lost Ruth, then I lost Tommy, but I won't lose my memories of them. (23.44)

    Kathy loses a lot of things throughout this novel, but the one thing she really doesn't want to lose is her memory. She believes her memories are fade-resistant. What do you think? We've seen Kathy admit to some memory loss before, so can we trust that her memories won't fade over time?

  • Friendship

    Chapter 1
    Kathy H.

    But in the end I managed it, and the instant I saw her again, at that recovery centre in Dover, all our differences—while they didn't exactly vanish—seemed not nearly as important as all the other things: like the fact that we'd grown up together at Hailsham, the fact that we knew and remembered things no one else did. (1.5)

    This is our first introduction to Kathy and Ruth's friendship. Right off the bat, we know their friendship was rocky. But we also learn that they have shared memories of Hailsham, and this binds them together. We'll see this connection to Hailsham resurface a lot throughout the novel, and it seems to be the one thing that always holds these two together.

    Chapter 2
    Kathy H.

    I can see now, too, how the Exchanges had a more subtle effect on us all. If you think about it, being dependent on each other to produce the stuff that might become your private treasures—that's bound to do things to your relationships. (2.19)

    At Hailsham, friendships crop up around the art the students create. There's a really important phrase Kathy uses here—"being dependent on each other." To Kathy, this dependency is a good thing and helps build camaraderie. But what do they need each other for, beyond random trinkets? Do they depend on each other emotionally, too?

    Chapter 5
    Kathy H.

    But at other times, I think that's wrong—that it was just to do with me and Ruth, and the sort of loyalty she inspired in me in those days. (5.30)

    Kathy tells us this after Moira has insulted the secret guard. In response, Kathy has defended the secret guard, despite the fact that Ruth has kicked her out. Kathy sure is a loyal pal. What "sort of loyalty" do you think Ruth inspires in Kathy? And why is Kathy so loyal, even when she's been snubbed?

    Chapter 6
    Kathy H.

    Now, for much the same reasons I'd not been able to talk openly to Ruth about what I'd done to her over the Sales Register business, she of course wasn't able to thank me for the way I'd intervened with Midge. But it was obvious from her manner towards me, not just over the next few days, but over the weeks that followed, how pleased she was with me. (6.19)

    Ruth and Kathy are almost telepathic. And sometimes their inability to just talk to each other only causes more problems. But instead of words, it's almost like they have another secret language they use to communicate.

    Chapter 7
    Kathy H.

    As it happened, I didn't have to go through with it because Tommy found out first. (7.48-49)

    Even Kathy has her slip-ups. When she tells Tommy that she'll strap his arm so that his elbow won't "unzip," she knows she's lying to her friend. Not cool, Kath. Years later, Kathy not only remembers this incident, but she still feels the same emotion she felt back then when she betrayed her friend: guilt.

    Chapter 9
    Kathy H.

    "It's really good you're telling me this," I said eventually. "I probably am the best person. Talking to Tommy and all that." (9.18)

    Tommy and Kathy have always had a special bond. So when Ruth asks Kathy to talk to him about getting back together with Ruth, we're not surprised to see a hint of competition in the air. In fact, Kathy will repeat this idea that she's the best person to talk to Tommy a few paragraphs later. Looks like things can get complicated when friendship gets mixed with romance.

    Chapter 11
    Kathy H.

    Those early months at the Cottages had been a strange time in our friendship. We were quarrelling over all kinds of little things, but at the same time we were confiding in each other more than ever. (11.1)

    Kathy and Ruth have a relationship like kettle corn or chocolate covered pretzels. It's a little salty and a little sweet all at once. But somehow, it works for them. They maintain this salty-sweet relationship throughout the entire novel, right to the very end.

    Chapter 15
    Kathy H.

    "Judy Bridgewater. My old friend. It's like she's never been away." (15.99)

    It's almost like Kathy has an imaginary friend in Judy Bridgewater. In some ways, Judy may be Kathy's most loyal friend. But what does it mean for Kathy to be friends with a singer she'll never meet? One who can't challenge her, or talk back?

    Chapter 19
    Kathy H.

    But just once, as she was twisting herself in a way that seemed scarily unnatural, and I was on the verge of calling the nurses for more painkillers, just for a few seconds, no more, she looked straight at me and she knew exactly who I was. It was one of those little islands of lucidity donors sometimes get to in the midst of their ghastly battles, and she looked at me, just for that moment, and although she didn't speak, I knew what her look meant. (19.142)

    How incredible is that? It's pretty cool how Kathy and Ruth can communicate without speaking. We've seen them do this throughout the novel, and it doesn't always work out for the best. But this final look is their last connection. Even without words it seems to give them closure before Ruth "completes."

    Chapter 23
    Kathy H.

    A part of me keeps wishing we'd somehow been able to share everything we discovered with Ruth. […] The way it is, it's like there's a line with us on one side and Ruth on the other, and when all's said and done, I feel sad about that, and I think she would too if she could see it. (23.39)

    The image Kathy gives us here of Ruth on one side of a line with Tommy and herself on the other is a pretty powerful one. It makes Kathy sad that when this trio is divided up into duos, someone inevitably gets left out. Does this image jog your memory of places where Kathy or Tommy is the odd one out?

  • Art and Culture

    Chapter 2
    Kathy H.

    "An Exchange would come along and we'd be standing there torn between Susie K.'s poems and those giraffes Jackie used to make."

    "Jackie's giraffes," Ruth said with a laugh. "They were so beautiful. I used to have one." (2.24-25)

    Animals sure do pop up a lot in this book, especially when the students are creating art. These giraffes remind us of Tommy's childish elephant drawing and the imaginative animals he draws when he's older.

    Chapter 3
    Kathy H.

    The gallery Tommy and I were discussing was something we'd all of us grown up with. Everyone talked about it as though it existed, though in truth none of us knew for sure that it did. I'm sure I was pretty typical in not being able to remember how or when I'd first heard about it. Certainly, it hadn't been from the guardians: they never mentioned the Gallery, and there was an unspoken rule that we should never even raise the subject in their presence. (3.51)

    Is it just us, or does Kathy have trouble remembering when she learned anything at this so-called school? This moment has us thinking about how Kathy doesn't remember when she first learned about donations. For some reason, Kathy's selective memory loss kicks in on both occasions.

    If Tommy had genuinely tried, she was saying, but he just couldn't be very creative, then that was quite all right, he wasn't to worry about it. (3.14)

    At Hailsham, Tommy has trouble getting into a creative groove. The poor guy feels like everyone blames him for his lack of artistic talent. But at least he has one guardian, Miss Lucy, in his corner.

    Chapter 9
    Miss Lucy

    "Listen, Tommy, your art, it is important. And not just because it's evidence. But for your own sake. You'll get a lot from it, just for yourself." (9.39)

    Miss Lucy has had a change of heart and tells Tommy that he can't neglect his artwork. Fair enough, people change their minds all the time. But it would be nice if Miss Lucy could give us a tad more information here. What do you think Miss Lucy means when she's says Tommy will get a lot from his art? And do you think her prediction comes true?

    Chapter 10
    Kathy H.

    Once I'd spotted this, I began to notice all kinds of other things the veteran couples had taken from TV programmes: the way they gestured to each other, sat together on sofas, even the way they argued and stormed out of rooms. (10.15)

    Those veteran couples are such copycats. It's not clear if the veterans are deliberately copying the TV shows or if it's accidental. Either way, even in this world where clones exist, TV plays an important role in shaping the culture at the Cottages. How else are they going to figure out how to behave? It's not like they had normal upbringings.

    Chapter 14
    Kathy H.

    Actually, preoccupied though I was with Ruth's possible, I did begin to enjoy the paintings and the sheer peacefulness of the place. It felt like we'd come a hundred miles from the High Street. […] Maybe it was the tiredness suddenly catching up with us—after all, we'd been travelling since before dawn—but I wasn't the only one who went off into a bit of a dream in there. (14.37)

    Art can have an escapist quality. At "The Portway Studios" in Norfolk, Kathy makes the art gallery sound like a dream world. Looking at the paintings is a way for her and the others to escape from reality, even if just for a little while.

    Chapter 15
    Tommy D.

    "The thing is, I'm doing them really small. Tiny. I'd never thought of that at Hailsham. I think maybe that's where I went wrong. If you make them tiny, and you have to because the pages are only about this big, then everything changes. It's like they come to life by themselves. Then you have to draw in all these different details for them." (15.89)

    Tommy wants to make his imaginary animals "come to life" and he thinks he's found the secret ingredient: making them teeny tiny. Well, we guess we won't ask Tommy to paint a life-sized mural any time soon.

    "She told Roy that things like pictures, poetry, all that kind of stuff, she said they revealed what you were like inside. She said they revealed your soul." (15.61)

    Tommy remembers when Miss Emily finally told Roy why their artwork matters so much: because it has soul-revealing properties. Do you agree with Miss Emily? Is art a window into your soul? Or into your mind? Or maybe your heart?

    Chapter 22
    Miss Emily

    "You said it was because your art would reveal what you were like. What you were like inside. That's what you said, wasn't it? Well, you weren't far wrong about that. We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all." (22.19)

    Wow, this is a hefty role for art to play. Does this mean that if the students are bad artists, then they have lesser souls? That doesn't seem quite fair. Unfortunately, Miss Emily doesn't explain her theory in detail. Just like she doesn't explain, oh, anything.

    "That was why we collected your art. We selected the best of it and put on special exhibitions. In the late seventies, at the height of our influence, we were organising large events all around the country. […] 'There, look!' we could say. 'Look at this art! How dare you claim these children are anything less than fully human?' Oh yes, there was a lot of support for our movement back then, the tide was with us." (22.24)

    Miss Emily firmly believes that art proves humanity (although we think it shouldn't require that much). Here she and Madame use art as propaganda for the pro-clone movement. Does this make for effective campaigning? According to Miss Emily, the art worked like a charm… at least for a little while.

  • Lies and Deceit

    Chapter 3
    Tommy D.

    "She said we weren't being taught enough, something like that."

    "Taught enough? You mean she thinks we should be studying even harder than we are?"

    "No, I don't think she meant that. What she was talking about was, you know, about us. What's going to happen to us one day. Donations and all that."

    "But we have been taught about all that," I said. "I wonder what she meant. Does she think there are things we haven't been told yet?" (3.28-31)

    This is the first we hear about Miss Lucy's desire to tell the students the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Tommy and Kathy think they've already learned everything there is to know about their futures. But notice Tommy's ambiguous language when he says "Donations and all that." What does "all that" refer to? Or does Tommy not know yet?

    Chapter 7
    Miss Lucy

    "The problem, as I see it, is that you've been told and not told. You've been told, but none of you really understand, and I dare say, some people are quite happy to leave it that way. But I'm not. If you're to have decent lives, you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you, every one of you." (7.20)

    You might say Miss Lucy is a bit of a downer here. She thinks students deserve to know their depressing fate and is upset that the students have been "told and not told" the truth. If the students have been "told and not told," then have they been lied to? Or have they just not understood? At the end of the day—who's really responsible?

    Kathy H.

    Certainly, it feels like I always knew about donations in some vague way, even as early as six or seven. And it's curious, when we were older and the guardians were giving us those talks, nothing came as a complete surprise. It was like we'd heard everything somewhere before. (7.27)

    How creepy! Kathy can't seem to remember how she learned about donations. This has us wondering if Kathy is fooling herself. Maybe she needs to pay more attention in class. But it also gives her a healthy dose of responsibility for her fate. You could argue that if she and Tommy knew where their lives were headed on some level, well then they had the power to do something about it and chose not to.

    Tommy D.

    Tommy thought it possible the guardians had, throughout all our years at Hailsham, timed very carefully and deliberately everything they told us, so that we were always just too young to understand properly the latest piece of information. But of course we'd take it in at some level, so that before long all this stuff was there in our heads without us ever having examined it properly. (7.26)

    Tommy has come up with quite the conspiracy theory. The guardians at Hailsham seem to be masters at slipping information into the students' heads without the students even knowing about it. Is this effective parenting? Or good teaching? Or is it just plain old brainwashing?

    Chapter 13
    Chrissie and Rodney

    Then Chrissie said in a new voice: "You know, Ruth, we might be coming here in a few years' time to visit you. Working in a nice office. I don't see how anyone could stop us visiting you then."

    "That's right," Ruth said quickly. "You can all come and see me." (13.24-25)

    While in Norfolk, Ruth engages in a little make-believe. When Chrissie suggests that maybe Ruth will be working in an office one day, Ruth goes along with this idea. In fact, Ruth almost seems to believe that the dream will come true. To get at the heart of this dilemma, we'll quote the Boss, who has never failed us: "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true? Or is it something worse?"

    Ruth

    Ruth sighed and said: "Well, they told us a few things, obviously. But"—she gave a shrug—"it's not something we know much about. We never talked about it really. Anyway, we should get going soon." (13.52).

    Here, when Chrissie and Rodney ask about deferrals, Ruth responds with a big fat lie. The sad truth is, no one at Hailsham taught them about deferrals. Ruth risks getting Chrissie and Rodney's hopes up with this fib. Maybe that's why she's so eager to change the subject.

    Chapter 22
    Miss Emily

    "Whatever else, we at least saw to it that all of you in our care, you grew up in wonderful surroundings. And we saw to it too, after you left us, you were kept away from the worst of those horrors. We were able to do that much for you at least." (22.24)

    To Miss Emily, ignorance is bliss. So she makes sure that even after the students leave Hailsham they're still wearing blinders. Miss Emily sure does seem like a powerful woman. But her tone here also sounds sad, like she wishes she could've protected the students more.

    Finally she said: "She was a nice enough girl, Lucy Wainright. But after she'd been with us for a while, she began to have these ideas. She thought you students had to be made more aware. More aware of what lay ahead of you, who you were, what you were for. She believed you should be given as full a picture as possible. That to do anything less would be somehow to cheat you. We considered her view and concluded she was mistaken." (22.49)

    Miss Lucy has the minority opinion at Hailsham. She wants to tell the students the truth (gasp!). In contrast, Miss Emily firmly believes that curiosity kills the cat (or, ahem, clones). So she tells Tommy and Kathy just how wrong she thinks Miss Lucy is. Sure, she may have their best interests at heart, but we're not sure Miss Emily is making the right call here.

    "You see, we were able to give you something, something which even now no one will ever take from you, and we were able to do that principally by sheltering you. Hailsham would not have been Hailsham if we hadn't. Very well, sometimes that meant we kept things from you, lied to you. Yes, in many ways we fooled you. I suppose you could even call it that. But we sheltered you during those years, and we gave you your childhoods. […] You wouldn't be who you are today if we'd not protected you" (22.51)

    Here we get the campaign platform for Team Miss Emily: keep the kids in the dark as much as possible. Take a look at the verbs Miss Emily uses here: shelter, lie, fool, protect. Does she seem to think all these verbs mean the same thing? Or does the end justify the means?

    Tommy D.

    Then as we were going down a particularly dark lane in the back of nowhere, he said suddenly: "I think Miss Lucy was right. Not Miss Emily." (22.88-89)

    Here, Tommy hops on the Team Miss Lucy train. It's curious that he has this epiphany in the middle of a dark lane. Is that symbolic somehow?

  • Passivity

    Chapter 4
    Kathy H.

    I won't be a carer any more come the end of the year, and though I've got a lot out of it, I have to admit I'll welcome the chance to rest—to stop and think and remember. (4.1)

    Here, Kathy sounds like an old woman. Yet she's just thirty-one. To us, this seems like an early age to be ready to "rest" (a.k.a. give away your organs and die). But Kathy's always expected to complete around this age, so it's not a big deal.

    Chapter 16
    Kathy H.

    But I didn't say or do anything. […] I remember a huge tiredness coming over me, a kind of lethargy in the face of the tangled mess before me. It was like being given a math problem when your brain's exhausted, and you know there's some far-off solution, but you can't work up the energy even to give it a go. Something in me just gave up. (16.60)

    Sometimes Kathy can be a really strong gal, but here she just gives up. In fact, she doesn't even try to find a solution to her squabble with Ruth and Tommy. Yet even though Kathy has thrown in the towel, she still gives us some mighty powerful imagery. Can't you just picture Kathy sagging down because she's so exhausted?

    Chapter 19
    Ruth

    "I was like you, Tommy. I was pretty much ready when I became a donor. It felt right. After all, it's what we're supposed to be doing, isn't it?" (19.61)

    To us, the idea of being "ready" to donate your organs sounds pretty crazy. But to Ruth, it's what she's "supposed to be doing." She doesn't see becoming a donor as a defeat or a sign that she's given up. Instead, it's more like she's finally reached the goal that society set for her. She has finally fulfilled her purpose.

    Kathy H.

    "It's funny," I said, "remembering it all now. Remember how you used to go on about it? How you'd one day work in an office like that one?"

    […]

    "Don't you sometimes think," I said to Ruth, "you should have looked into it more? All right, you'd have been the first. The first one any of us would have heard of getting to do something like that. But you might have done it. Don't you wonder sometimes, what might have happened if you'd tried?"

    "How could I have tried?" Ruth's voice was hardly audible. "It's just something I once dreamt about. That's all." (19.90, 92-93)

    For all her dreaming, Ruth never actually tries to work in an office. And as Kathy points out to her, if you don't try, then you definitely won't succeed. To Ruth, it's as if there was no point in trying in the first place. Way to have a positive attitude, Ruth. Here Ruth's submissive outlook seems pretty different than the younger, more defiant powerhouse we got used to seeing.

    Chapter 22
    Kathy H.

    I caught a glimpse of his face in the moonlight, caked in mud and distorted with fury, then I reached for his flailing arms and held on tight. He tried to shake me off, but I kept holding on, until he stopped shouting and I felt the fight go out of him. (22.95)

    Tommy is upset after he and Kathy have visited Miss Emily and learned that there are no deferrals. We'd be pretty upset, too. Tommy's tantrum in this cow field is one of the few moments where we see one of the clones fighting against the role society has given them, even though it doesn't do him any good. And in the end, even Tommy gives in and stops fighting once and for all.

    Miss Emily

    "I can see," Miss Emily said, "that it might look as though you were simply pawns in a game. It can certainly be looked at like that. But think of it. You were lucky pawns. There was a certain climate and now it's gone. You have to accept that sometimes that's how things happen in this world." (22.41)

    This idea that the Hailsham students are pawns in a game makes a lot of sense to us. Just like pawns, they have very little control over their lives. Instead, someone else is pushing them around the board and they passively follow suit. We're thinking that this sounds like the least fun game of chess ever.

    Chapter 23
    Tommy D.

    Then he said: "I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it's just too much. The current's too strong. They've got to let go, drift apart. That's how I think it is with us. It's a shame, Kath, because we've loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can't stay together forever." (23.30)

    Gosh that's a powerful image, and a mighty sad one. There's something so final in the way Tommy talks about letting Kathy go. To Tommy, there's nothing they can do to change their fate. It just is what it is, so they may as well give in.

    "I mean, don't you ever get tired of being a carer? All the rest of us, we became donors ages ago. You've been doing it for years. Don't you sometimes wish, Kath, they'd hurry up and send you your notice?"

    I shrugged. "I don't mind. Anyway, it's important there are good carers. And I'm a good carer."

    "But is it really that important? Okay, it's really nice to have a good carer. But in the end, is it really so important? The donors will all donate, just the same, and then they'll complete." (23.24-26)

    Tommy's being quite the killjoy here. The way he figures it, everyone donates and completes, so why bother working so hard to be a carer? Do you think Tommy is being pessimistic? Or is he just being realistic?

    Kathy H.

    I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be. (23.49)

    In the very last line of the novel, Kathy shows no signs of resistance. Kathy even has her car and we know that driving has a lot to do with freedom in this novel. But in the end, Kathy's car isn't going to carry her to liberty. Instead, she's going to submit to her fate, and drive herself to wherever she's "supposed to be."

    Once I'm able to have a quieter life, in whichever centre they send me to, I'll have Hailsham with me, safely in my head, and that'll be something no one can take away. (23.47)

    For Kathy, society might be able to take away her vital organs, but they won't take away her connection with Hailsham. Kathy sounds almost defiant here, even as she talks about yielding to her fate. She might be ready for a "quieter life" in a recovery center, but that doesn't mean she's willing to let go of her memories.

  • Freedom and Confinement

    Chapter 5
    Kathy H.

    The woods were at the top of the hill that rose behind Hailsham House. All we could see really was a dark fringe of trees, but I certainly wasn't the only one of my age to feel their presence day and night. (5.4)

    Wow, those woods sound super creepy. Having woods constantly staring down at you doesn't seem like much fun. Notice how, for Kathy, the discomfort the woods conjure up in her is physical: she can "feel their presence." We have to agree; thinking about these eerie woods is giving us the heebie-jeebies. No wonder all the kiddos stayed put.

    Chapter 7
    Miss Lucy

    "It's just as well the fences at Hailsham aren't electrified. You get terrible accidents sometimes." (7.5)

    One day during class, Miss Lucy tells her students that the Hailsham gates aren't electrified. We have to admit, it seems a little extreme to keep children surrounded by electrified fences. Why is that even a consideration here?

    Chapter 10
    Kathy H.

    Of course, in practice, especially during the first months, we rarely stepped beyond the confines of the Cottages. We didn't even walk about the surrounding countryside or wander into the nearby village. I don't think we were afraid exactly. (10.9)

    This sounds like a recipe for cabin fever. Unlike Hailsham, the Cottages have no gates whatsoever. So why don't Kathy and her friends go exploring? If they're not afraid, why don't they venture out?

    If we were honest, though, particularly near the beginning, most of us would have admitted missing the guardians. […] But this was one thing we'd been told over and over: that after Hailsham there'd be no more guardians, so we'd have to look after each other. (10.7)

    Moving from Hailsham to the Cottages means leaving the guardians behind. Now there's no one to tell Kathy and her pals how to spend their days, no one to discipline them if they break the rules. It's kind of like moving away for college. Party time! Ah, but not so fast. Even though there are perks to this freedom, Kathy and her chums actually miss their old teachers… and maybe even their rules. Out here in the great wide open, they only have each other. And maybe that's not quite enough.

    Chapter 13
    Kathy H.

    It had turned into a crisp, sunny day, and my memory of it is that for the first hour we all felt so exhilarated to be out and about we didn't give much thought to what had brought us there. At one point Rodney actually let out a few whoops, waving his arms around as he led the way up a road climbing steadily past rows of houses and the occasional shop, and you could sense just from the huge sky, that you were walking towards the sea. (13.7)

    Kathy and her friends finally take advantage of their newfound independence with the road trip to Norfolk. Everything about Kathy's description says freedom: Rodney's cheering, the big huge sky, the communal good mood. Maybe this group should get out more often.

    Chapter 18
    Kathy H.

    I thought about Hailsham closing, and how it was like someone coming along with a pair of shears and snipping the balloon strings just where they entwined above the man's fist. Once that happened, there'd be no real sense in which those balloons belonged with each other any more. (18.37)

    If someone cuts these balloon strings, then the balloons will float away. Be free, balloons! But here, that level of freedom isn't a good thing. Kathy doesn't want to be completely untethered. It sounds like being completely free might also mean feeling pretty lonely.

    But I do like the feeling of getting into my little car, knowing for the next couple of hours I'll have only the roads, the big grey sky and my daydreams for company. And if I'm in a town somewhere with several minutes to kill, I'll enjoy myself wandering about looking in the shop windows. (18.5)

    As a carer, Kathy has a ton of freedom. This lifestyle sounds completely different from the fear Kathy feels when she first moves to the Cottages. Check out how Kathy mentions the "big grey sky." She likes to point out the sky when she's outside and enjoying her little bit of liberty.

    Chapter 19
    Kathy H.

    Then we came to a barbed wire fence, which was tilted and rusted, the wire itself yanked all over the place. When Ruth saw it, she came to an abrupt halt.

    "Oh no," she said, anxiously. Then she turned to me: "You didn't say anything about this. You didn't say we had to get past barbed wire!"

    "It's not going to be difficult," I said. "We can go under it. We just have to hold it for each other." (19.18-20)

    While trying to get to the stranded boat, our favorite trio comes across this fence. Ruth feels a lot of fear, even though in the end it's not difficult to get through. Why does this fence make her so afraid? Ultimately, all conquering the fence takes is a little teamwork.

    Chapter 22

    "But do you see what we were up against? We were virtually attempting to square the circle. Here was the world, requiring students to donate. While that remained the case, there would always be a barrier against seeing you as properly human." (22.28)

    Sometimes barriers are psychological rather than physical. Here, public opinion about the clones creates a fence that even superhuman Miss Emily can't plow through. People in the outside world don't want to see clones as real human beings. So they've set up a mental wall with proper humans on one side, and clones on the other. Sounds like it's going to be nearly impossible for the clones or their supporters to ever break out of this barrier. Here's hoping there's a sequel with a healthy dose of revolution.

    Chapter 23
    Kathy H.

    I found I was standing before acres of ploughed earth. There was a fence keeping me from stepping into the field, with two lines of barbed wire, and I could see how this fence and the cluster of three or four trees above me were the only things breaking the wind for miles. All along the fence, especially along the lower line of wire, all sorts of rubbish had caught and tangled. (23.49)

    This is the last fence we see in the book. It's definitely significant that this fence is in Norfolk, since that's such an important place for Kathy. Did you notice how this fence isn't the cleanest? What do you think this trash might represent?

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Chapter 7
    Miss Lucy

    "None of you will go to America, none of you will be film stars. And none of you will be working in supermarkets as I heard some of you planning the other day. Your lives are set out for you." (7.20)

    Miss Lucy lays down the law: stop dreaming. She sure does repeat the word "none" a lot. We get the point Miss Lucy; "none" of the clones will have real-people jobs. In this scene, she seems almost cruel, whereas the gesture of telling the clones the truth seems kind in a way.

    Chapter 10
    Kathy H.

    When I think about my essay today, what I do is go over it in some detail: I may think of a completely new approach I could have taken, or about different writers and books I could have focused on. […] It's at that sort of level—daydream stuff. (10.3)

    Let's be honest: sometimes rewriting essays isn't that much fun. But here Kathy revels in the fantasies of how she could re-craft her work. She realizes this isn't really going to happen, but she likes daydreaming about the possibilities all the same. What do you think about the fact that Kathy likes to daydream about the past more than the future?

    Chapter 12
    Kathy H.

    Ruth began telling us about the sort of office she'd ideally work in, and I immediately recognised it. She went into all the details—the plants, the gleaming equipment, the chairs with their swivels and castors—and it was so vivid everyone let her talk uninterrupted for ages. […] In fact, listening to her, I even started wondering if maybe it was all feasible: if one day we might all of us move into a place like that and carry on our lives together. (12.28)

    Ruth's dream future comes from an advertisement she sees on the ground. At first, Kathy's a downer. But eventually even Kathy can't help but hope that maybe just maybe this dream future is a real possibility. Talk about the power of persuasion.

    I suppose it was mainly us newcomers who talked about "dream futures" that winter, though a number of veterans did too. […] It couldn't last, of course, but like I say, just for those few months, we somehow managed to live in this cosy state of suspension in which we could ponder our lives without the usual boundaries. (12.22)

    At the Cottages, Kathy and her friend enjoy spending time in their little bubble. Now there's no Miss Lucy to tell them not to talk about dream futures. Instead, they can pretend that anything is possible. What do you think about the way Kathy describes these conversations about dreams? Why is it a "state of suspension"?

    One big idea behind finding your model was that when you did, you'd glimpse your future. Now I don't mean anyone really thought that if your model turned out to be, say, a guy working at a railway station, that's what you'd end up doing too. We all realised it wasn't that simple. (12.12)

    Kathy and her friends know that they aren't going down the same paths as their clone models. In the real world, their models have various jobs. In the clone world, there are only two jobs: carer and donor. So how could they "glimpse" into their future if they find their model? Wouldn't that future be incorrect?

    Chapter 13
    Ruth

    Then Chrissie said in a new voice: "You know, Ruth, we might be coming here in a few years' time to visit you. Working in a nice office. I don't see how anyone could stop us visiting you then."

    "That's right," Ruth said quickly. "You can all come and see me." (13.24-25)

    Chrissie and Ruth have this chat in Norfolk. Notice how Chrissie says that they "might" be visiting Ruth while she works in an office, but Ruth says they "can." What's the distinction between these two verbs? Sounds to us like maybe Ruth is getting a little too into this daydream. That could get dicey, fast.

    Chapter 19
    Ruth

    "I was like you, Tommy. I was pretty much ready when I became a donor. It felt right. After all, it's what we're supposed to be doing, isn't it?" (19.61)

    Here Ruth shows us just how much she's changed her dreams over the years. Back at the Cottages, she could talk for hours about her ideal future of working in an office. Now, her attitude is completely different. Working in an office may have been the dream job she hoped to have, but being a donor is what she's "supposed" to do.

    Chapter 22
    Miss Emily

    "But this dream of yours, this dream of being able to defer. Such a thing would always have been beyond us to grant, even at the height of our influence. I'm sorry, I can see what I'm saying won't be welcome to you. But you mustn't be dejected." (22.24)

    Seriously, Miss Emily, did you really think they wouldn't be sad? Miss Emily has just dashed Kathy and Tommy's hopes of spending more time together. Of course the lovebirds are going to be bummed that their dream of a deferral has come tumbling down.

    "And for the few couples who get disappointed, the rest will never put it to the test anyway. It's something for them to dream about, a little fantasy. What harm is there? But for the two of you, I can see this doesn't apply. You are serious. You've thought carefully. You've hoped carefully." (22.6)

    Miss Emily has seen a handful of couples like Kathy and Tommy who are looking to get a deferral. She's probably had to turn a few away before, too. But Kathy and Tommy are different. They haven't been hoping willy-nilly, and that makes Miss Emily's revelation that there are no deferrals that much worse.

    Chapter 23
    Kathy H.

    That was the only time, as I stood there, looking at that strange rubbish, feeling the wind coming across those empty fields, that I started to imagine just a little fantasy thing, because this was Norfolk after all, and it was only a couple of weeks since I'd lost him. I was thinking about the rubbish, the flapping plastic in the branches, the shore-line of odd stuff caught along the fencing, and I half-closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I'd ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it, and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field, and gradually get larger until I'd see it was Tommy, and he'd wave, maybe even call. The fantasy never got beyond that—I didn't let it […]. (23.49)

    This is Kathy's last daydream of the book. Do you think it's a happy dream or a sad one? Or maybe it's something in between. Check out how Kathy sets up a mental roadblock for anything beyond Tommy waving to her from the horizon. Why do you think she does this? What's on the other side of that roadblock?