Never Let Me Go

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Never Let Me Go Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kathy notes that, after the Norfolk trip, the group experiences a certain kind of tension, and people don’t really speak about Ruth’s possible, or about the possibility of “deferral” much—perhaps because Norfolk itself was a strange and troubling experience. One day, in late spring of their first year at the Cottages, Tommy does show Kathy his drawings of small creatures—which have parts that look like metal or wire—and Kathy is surprised by their intricacy, though she also finds them strange. Kathy wonders how “Madame would feel about them,” and Tommy notes that he’ll “have to work on them more” before he can offer them up for the Gallery.
Another quality of the clones’ lives—and of many of Ishiguro’s characters, not just these—is their occasional inability to say exactly what’s on their minds. Kathy directs a great deal of energy toward investigating her personal experiences, but even she has trouble explaining why, at certain moments, the former Hailsham students simply stopped speaking to one another, or decided to ignore the looming facts of their lives. Perhaps the disappointment following the Norfolk trip, and Ruth’s incorrect “possible,” was simply too great to speak of.
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 also notices that her relationship with Ruth has once again grown strained. Ruth begins to pretend that she can’t remember things about Hailsham—even though Kathy knows that Ruth shares her associations about the guardians and parts of the campus—perhaps because Ruth now considers those memories “immature.” One day, when Kathy and Ruth are discussing one of Kathy’s brief romantic flings, Ruth stumbles upon Kathy’s new copy of the Bridgewater tape, and when Kathy tells Ruth that she and Tommy found it together in Norfolk, Ruth seems slightly miffed and suspicious, although they don’t fight about it then. Ruth also brings up the subject of Tommy’s drawings, and Kathy jokes a little with Ruth about their subject-matter, without saying that she also finds them interesting.
One wonders, here, whether Ruth has attempted to get Kathy to speak about Tommy’s animals on purpose, in order to “trap” her into saying something about them that could be perceived as uncharitable or unkind. Ruth’s vanity and self-importance remain throughout the novel, even as she grows older and more frail. Even when Ruth tells Tommy and Kathy that she wronged them, and that she wants the two of them to be together, you sense in her an overwhelming difficulty to being so genuine and honest. With that said, Ruth is not a bad person—mere a complex character, one whose flaws are perhaps more apparent than are Tommy’s and Kathy’s.
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
Soon thereafter, Kathy runs into Ruth and Tommy around the Cottages—the two of them are having a heated discussion, and Kathy feels she’s intruding, but Ruth calls Kathy over, telling her that Tommy has introduced his “Gallery theory” to her. Ruth seems upset and dismissive, and when Tommy tries to explain that he’s making his small creatures so that he and Ruth can perhaps have their art compared, and their deferral granted, Ruth mercilessly mocks him in front of Kathy. Kathy is stunned and silent, and soon Ruth lets out that Kathy, too, finds the animals “a complete hoot.”
An important confrontation. After this point, the novel turns very quickly into adulthood. Indeed, one could view this moment as the definitive end of their childhood and youth—of the life represented by Hailsham and the Cottages. After this, Kathy will have to work hard, years later, to repair her relationship with Tommy, and Ruth and Tommy will never really recover—they will split soon after leaving the Cottages.
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
Though this is not strictly true—Ruth has warped Kathy’s comments about the drawings from their previous conversation—Kathy knows that there is nothing she can do now to convince Tommy that this is a lie. Kathy is desperately angry at Ruth for her bitter retort and meanness to Tommy, and terribly sad that Tommy will undergo this pain, indirectly on her own behalf. Kathy storms back to her own hut, “leaving the two of them” to their conversation, and not knowing what else to do to repair her friendships and convince Tommy that she does, in fact, find his artistic projects worthwhile.
Kathy, who is normally so collected and understanding of other people’s motivations, is genuinely hurt here—perhaps she suffers no greater hurt in the novel, other than the period following Ruth’s and Tommy’s death. Ruth has dealt a terrible blow to Kathy’s relationship with Tommy. For although Kathy does not entirely understand Tommy’s art, she nevertheless thinks it is noble and important that Tommy continue to work on it. Kathy finds it difficult, in the moment, to express this in front of Tommy and Ruth, however.
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
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