Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Lies and Deceit

By Kazuo Ishiguro

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 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?