Never Let Me Go

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Never Let Me Go Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kathy notes that Ruth’s comment stung her particularly, because during their initial months at the Cottages, Ruth and Kathy had continued to have private chats in their rooms, over steaming cups of tea, the way they used to at Hailsham. During one of these chats, Kathy had asked Ruth if Ruth ever got “urges” to have sex with someone—very powerful urges, that seemed to come from a strong biological need. Kathy feels like these urges mean something is wrong with her—and instead of agreeing with her, Ruth says that she’s “in a couple” and “can always have sex with Tommy.” In fact, Ruth says that Kathy’s urges are a little “weird.”
Kathy's relationship with Ruth retains some of the intimacies of their time at Hailsham, even though there is a new distance between them—caused, in part, by their growing older, but also by Ruth’s continued (and often pained) relationship with Tommy, and Kathy’s unrequited interest in him. Ruth appears to know, deep down, that Kathy cares for Tommy; thus her barbs, implying that Kathy is promiscuous, are especially hurtful for her friend.
Themes
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
Individual Goals vs. Social Expectations Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
Kathy has several “one-nighters” with boys at the Cottages. Although sex is more “grown-up” there, Kathy realizes, when Ruth makes her scathing remark during the Daniel Deronda conversation, that sex remains a taboo topic—or that Kathy is being shamed for her perceived promiscuity. Kathy writes, during the period of the novel’s narration, that, at the time, Ruth appeared to be doing her best to mature quickly, to lead the other Hailsham students into maturity. Kathy also notes that Ruth told her, much later, that she never held onto her collected objects from Hailsham, but instead threw them away, since she saw no need for them once she reached the Cottages. Kathy finds this lack of nostalgia quite strange but typical of Ruth.
Ironically, it is Ruth who will become a primary means of “reconnecting” with the past, at the close of the novel, when Ruth encourages Kathy to serve as Tommy’s carer, so that the two can attempt to receive a deferral from Madame. Ruth’s desire to move beyond Hailsham while at the Cottages, to grow up quickly, and to pretend she is more mature than she is all cause her to throw away or disregard reminders of their school days. But Ruth seems to regret this disregard of the past later on, when she is sick and serving as a donor. While Ruth spends her life seeking something "more", Kathy finds meaning and purpose within her life.
Themes
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
Individual Goals vs. Social Expectations Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
Later on that autumn, Kathy discovers a cache of pornographic magazines at the Cottages—the joke there is that a former Cottage student, named Steve, had an enormous supply, and they remain for others to peruse. One day, Kathy takes a stack into an abandoned boiler room and leafs through them out of curiosity. Tommy chances inside and, seeing Kathy doing this, wonders why she is looking at the magazines so closely. Kathy says it’s only out of curiosity, but Tommy senses that Kathy has some deeper reason for doing so, which she doesn’t explain.
Once again, Tommy’s intuitions are strong—he seems to grasp that Kathy feels there is something “wrong” with her sexuality or her body—that her desires for sex are unnatural or more intense than others around her. But Tommy, in his kindness, does not really push Kathy to explain herself or the presence of the magazines. Only later will Tommy figure out exactly why Kathy is so interested in her body—because Kathy wonders, like all the other clones, who her “original” or clone parent might be.
Themes
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
Individual Goals vs. Social Expectations Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon