Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Chapter 23

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Chapter 23

  • Once they're back at Kingsfield during the weeks after this meeting with Madam and Miss Emily, there's some tension between Tommy and Kathy. They're still having a good time together, but things haven't exactly gone back to normal.
  • Part of the problem is that sometimes Kathy feels a little left out when Tommy is with his donor friends, almost like he'd rather be with them than her. Plus, Tommy keeps reminding Kathy that she doesn't understand his situation because she's not yet a donor. Ouch.
  • Actually, there was this one time that he reminded her of how she couldn't understand being a donor that really ticked her off.
  • It happened right around when Tommy had received notice that he'd soon be giving his fourth donation. That can't be good news.
  • Kathy and Tommy had talked about this fourth donation a lot. Tommy had some fears, which lots of people going into their fourth donations had, and we can't blame them. The biggest fear was that after your fourth donation, you wouldn't really complete, but you also wouldn't recover. Instead, the donor would be left in a sort of limbo where the doctors would keep you alive and semi-conscious so they could take any remaining organs when they needed them, but you'd have no control and no power. That sounds awful.
  • Even despite these fears, Kathy thought Tommy was handling his fourth donation pretty well.
  • But then Tommy drops a bomb on her: he wants her to stop being his carer before he goes for the fourth donation.
  • Kathy is really upset about this, and we can understand why. One major point of becoming Tommy's carer was to help him through these rough patches. She says it's what Ruth would've wanted.
  • But Tommy disagrees. He doesn't want Kathy to see him at the end, and he doesn't think Ruth would want that either. According to Tommy, Ruth would understand because she was a donor. Kathy, in contrast, isn't a donor yet, so she just can't understand.
  • Kathy gets upset that Tommy has turned this into an issue of donors versus carers, with her alone on one side and Tommy and Ruth together on the other. But thankfully, even though she's hurt, this doesn't blow-up into a big argument.
  • When they talk about the issue again later, Tommy asks why Kathy doesn't just become a donor. In the end, everyone donates and completes, so what's the difference? And though Kathy thinks it's important to have good carers, even she agrees that it won't be long before she becomes a donor, too.
  • Clearly, things aren't looking up for Tommy and Kathy. He's going into his fourth donation and she'll probably become a donor soon. With their inevitable separation looming on the horizon, Tommy tells Kathy that he has this image in his head of what they are experiencing.
  • In this image, Tommy pictures two people in a river. They are trying to hold each other tight, but they can't because the rough current drives them part. There's nothing the couple can do, so their hold on one another fails.
  • Unlike this raging river, Kathy's last few weeks with Tommy are nice and calm.
  • On their last day together, they talk about Ruth. Tommy says that part of him is happy that Ruth didn't find out what they did from Miss Emily. Maybe it was good that she got to complete thinking Tommy and Kathy still had a chance.
  • But there's a part of Kathy that wishes Ruth knew all that they'd learned. This is mostly because she feels like Ruth didn't get to be part of their trio in gaining those particular pieces of knowledge. At this point in her life, Kathy wishes they could be a trio in everything.
  • She also tells us that she's forgiven Ruth and is no longer angry, so that's good.
  • At the end of their last day together, Kathy and Tommy say a quiet goodbye. Tommy tells her one last little anecdote about how at Hailsham he liked to pretend that he was running through water after he'd scored a goal in football. Then, after a quick kiss, Kathy drives away.
  • Kathy tells us that a few days ago she was talking with a donor about memories. Nowadays, she really holds the memories of Tommy and Ruth near and dear to her heart, especially with them gone.
  • She also holds onto memories of Hailsham, even though she's lost that place, too. Sometimes she still thinks she sees her old stomping ground when she's driving, even though she's not consciously looking for Hailsham.
  • Soon Kathy won't be driving anymore. She won't even have chances to happen across buildings that look like Hailsham because she'll be in a donor center.
  • But there was this one time fairly recently when she drove up to Norfolk again that stands out in her mind. It happened a few weeks after she learned that Tommy had completed.
  • So we get the last flashback of the novel. While driving on a road that she didn't know, Kathy eventually stops the car and gets out. She stands next to a fence surrounding a field. The fence is filled with trash that's gotten stuck there.
  • As Kathy looks at the horizon, she indulges in a "little fantasy thing" (23.49). She imagines that she's really in the lost-and-found bin of her whole life, that every person and thing that she's lost is right here in Norfolk. She pretends that Tommy appears on the horizon and waves to her.
  • But then she stops her daydream, and never takes it any further.
  • When she leaves this fence in Norfolk, Kathy is sad and teary, but not out-of-control sobbing. Instead, she just gets in the car "to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be" (23.49).
  • Hand us the tissues, please. And a huge protest sign, too.