Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Friendship

By Kazuo Ishiguro


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?