Study Guide

Never Let Me Go Chapter 8

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Chapter 8

  • Kathy starts this chapter with the story of meeting Miss Lucy in Room 22. In this flashback, she's sixteen and it's a beautiful day at Hailsham.
  • When she finds Miss Lucy in Room 22, at first Kathy thinks that Miss Lucy is writing frantically on really dark paper. But then Kathy realizes that Miss Lucy is actually using a pen to deliberately black out the handwriting on light paper.
  • And for reasons she can't quite explain, this totally freaks Kathy out. She starts worrying that something awful might be happening in the future. This idea is bolstered when Tommy has an upsetting interaction with Miss Lucy a few days later.
  • But at the time, Kathy doesn't get to find out all the details about Tommy's experience with Miss Lucy. Kathy and Tommy's relationship had become extremely complicated for a bunch of reasons, and that throws a wrench in the whole communication thing.
  • For starters, Tommy had been acting weird. Sometimes Kathy worried he'd start having tantrums again. For example, one time Kathy was showing Tommy a calendar that she'd picked up at an Exchange. Patricia C. had drawn pictures of Hailsham life for each month. But looking through the calendar seemed to make Tommy angry because he stalked off.
  • Kathy realizes that she should have known this all had something to do with Miss Lucy. And that it also had to do with Tommy's anxieties about "being creative." But she didn't put it all together at the time because so much else was going on.
  • And one big thing that was going on was Tommy and Ruth. They'd recently broken up.
  • Wait, what? When did they start dating?
  • Apparently Ruth and Tommy had been dating for about six months. According to Kathy, they seemed to genuinely like each other.
  • And this brings up that topic of sex again. At Hailsham, the students received mixed signals about sex. On the one hand, the guardians encouraged students to recognize their physical needs if it was with the right person. But on the other hand, they also made you feel like if you got caught having sex then you'd be in big trouble. (When Rob D. and Jenny C. got caught having sex, they were told that they shouldn't have been doing it. But they also didn't get in trouble. See what we mean? Confusing, mixed signals.)
  • At Hailsham, the students could also be cruel about sex. They called those students who "fancied someone your own sex" an "umbrella" (8.25). And they used the phrase "getting all umbrella" as a slur to insult someone.
  • The students at Hailsham have started talking about sex all the time. And most of them are claiming that they're doing it all the time. It isn't until she's older that Kathy realizes that they probably weren't actually doing it. But she did know for sure that Ruth had sex with Tommy.
  • Amid all of these raging hormones, Kathy starts to feel like the only virgin at Hailsham. So she decides that maybe she should practice with a boy she doesn't care about, just in case she isn't good at it. And she's decided to do it with Harry C., because he won't blabber about it to everyone.
  • So Kathy starts to prepare herself by practicing on her own, and re-reading sex scenes in books.
  • Eventually, Kathy feels as prepared as she's going to get. But timing just isn't on Kathy's side because this is when Ruth and Tommy break up.