Never Let Me Go

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Never Let Me Go Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tommy and Kathy have a hard time getting to the seaside town where Madame lives—Tommy has to run several tests before they can go—but they finally reach the town, and soon they spot Madame walking back to her house. Tommy and Kathy decide to follow behind her at a safe distance, and when they reach the gate of her house, they introduce themselves, saying that they are former Hailsham students who want to talk to her, and who don’t want trouble. Although Madame seems shocked at first—and draws back from them as she did long ago, at Hailsham, as though she were scared—she soon relaxes and welcomes them inside.
Madame’s response to seeing Tommy and Kathy—apparently she recognizes them, even though she has gotten to know many clones—is not dissimilar from her response to the girls at Hailsham many years before. As Emily later relates, even the thought of touching or coming near a clone is difficult for a “normal” person. Here, Ishiguro taps into a fear that seems very “real” and plausible to the reader—the idea that clones might somehow be not quite human, or strange to see, touch, and be near. Or perhaps that fear stems from the fact that the normal humans feel shame for how they have treated clones.
Themes
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
Tommy and Kathy sit in a dark room and look at the decorations while Madame goes upstairs to prepare for their talk. Tommy points out a picture of Hailsham, but it’s a view of the school Kathy does not recognize, and Tommy urges her, saying that she couldn’t possibly have forgotten that particular view, “near the pond.” Madame finally comes down and invites Kathy to tell her why they are here to see her.
The tables are turned—Kathy sees that she, too, has forgotten certain moments of her Hailsham life, even though Tommy remembers them. Kathy, of course, often chastised Ruth, when she was alive, about failing to remember certain “indelible” things about Hailsham.
Themes
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
Kathy, excited, begins her speech, but finds that her ideas are “garbled,” even though she has practiced this speech in her head for some time. But finally Kathy tells Madame everything—that they are there to ask about a romantic deferral because they are “deeply in love.” Madame finally interjects, asking how they know they are deeply in love, and begins crying a small amount. Tommy joins in, talking about their art and the gallery, and the idea that the art was used by Madame to track their inner souls and to pair off potential “matches” who were in love enough to warrant deferral.
Madame is struck by this—by the idea that the clones are soulful and “human” enough to want to fall in love, to believe they are in love, to form genuine human relationships. For Madame, all along, has believed that clones are fully human, and that they deserve fully human treatment even as their professional lives—which are immensely difficult—are laid out before them. Tommy’s statement cheers Madame a great deal.
Themes
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
Madame seems to find this idea about the gallery ingenious, even as she indicates, in her surprise, that this was not the purpose of the gallery at all. Madame keeps saying, to no one in particular, if she should “proceed” in her explanations, and finally, Kathy realizes that Madame is addressing a fourth person, enshrouded in the darkness, whom Madame wheels out to speak to Kathy and Tommy—it’s Miss Emily, the former head of Hailsham. Madame defers to Miss Emily, and says “it’s she Kathy and Tommy wish to talk to.”
The revelation that Miss Emily is in fact the real headmistress of Hailsham, and that Madame wasn’t secretly in charge—isn’t actually so large a revelation perhaps as Ishiguro might have liked. But Emily’s emergence at the end of the novel allows for certain loose ends to be tied up, even if more questions about Hailsham’s background, and about the political situation in England surrounding cloning, are left unanswered.
Themes
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
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