Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Chapter 17

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Chapter 17

  • Kathy realizes years later that this churchyard chat was a huge deal. In fact, it happened at a time when things were already beginning to change and pull the Kathy-Ruth-Tommy trio apart. More and more people were heading out to become carers, and soon the trio would, too.
  • Now that she's explained this back story, Kathy reminds us why she's been telling us about these tensions among her, Tommy, and Ruth in the first place. It all goes back to the conversation where Ruth pretended not to remember the rhubarb patch at Hailsham, and how Kathy got so mad at her.
  • This time, when Kathy tells the story of why Ruth's pretend-amnesia bothered her so much, she gives us the whole conversation. This chat starts off with something we're not used to seeing from Kathy and Ruth: they talk directly about their problems. It's a miracle!
  • They discuss the recent blow-up where Ruth belittled Tommy's artwork. And Ruth says she and Tommy are cool now. Kathy, on the other hand, hasn't really patched things up with Tommy.
  • Once they get on the topic of Tommy, Ruth gets deep about her relationship with this sweet, animal-drawing man. She admits that they're not a perfect couple, which is pretty obvious to everyone with eyes.
  • Then Ruth starts talking about Kathy and Tommy, which could get awkward. Ruth says she knows that Kathy might have wondered what might happen if Tommy were on the dating market again. Obviously, anyone can see that there's the possibility Tommy and Kathy might have made a great couple.
  • The thing is, according to Ruth, Tommy could never look at Kathy like a real girlfriend. Kathy has been with a few different guys at the Cottages and Ruth says that's a deal breaker for Tommy. So even though Tommy likes Kathy, he could never like like her.
  • Kathy clearly doesn't know how to react to this, but Ruth soon changes the subject. Somehow they end up talking about Hailsham and this is when Kathy mentions the rhubarb patch and Ruth pretends to have selective memory loss.
  • Kathy never explicitly tells us what made her so angry. But it's pretty clear that it all comes back to Tommy and Ruth and the not-so-platonic triangle this trio has together.
  • Based on Kathy and Ruth's track record, we're not surprised that the chat ends with some weirdness between them.
  • And things are about to get weirder because Kathy has decided to leave the Cottages for good. She fills out the forms to become a carer, and soon leaves without having really patched things up with either Tommy or Ruth.