Never Let Me Go

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Never Let Me Go Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Miss Emily begins speaking to Kathy and Tommy, telling them that Madame, or “Marie-Claude” as she calls her, is now somewhat disillusioned with the idea of Hailsham—that Madame now wonders whether the school “did any good at all.” But Miss Emily, who created the school, always believed in its mission, which she details slowly for Kathy and Tommy. Emily first notes that school like Hailsham did not exist for decades after the development of clones, because, once organ donation and cloning technologies were created, people preferred to think that “their donated organs simply came from nowhere.” The idea was prevalent, before Hailsham, that clones were not people and should not be treated as such. Hailsham, and a small number of other institutions like it, were started in the 1960s as a reform movement designed to show that clones could be raised in humane conditions and accorded human dignity, even if clone and organ programs continued operating.
Miss Emily here gives more of the political background that, at this point, the reader has probably craved for some time. This section answers a few broad questions but opens many more. Why did cloning follow the second World War, and what technology preceded its development? Why was cloning invented in England, and does it exist in other countries, like the United States? How did the British public become comfortable with cloning, even after they saw that clones grew up to be real human adults, and that organs were being taken from these people? And how did the reform movement gain political traction, allowing public funds to be allocated to places like Hailsham, for the “humane” treatment of clones?
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Emily then addresses the rumor of deferral and of the gallery. Although the deferral rumor is not true and “never was”—though many students have heard of it over time, and Emily and Madame believe that the rumor springs up organically among different classes of students—the gallery rumor “is” true, to an extent. The gallery is the house in which they speak at this moment—Emily and Madame, who appear to live in a domestic partnership, have been collecting the art for years. When Tommy asks why—since the art is not used to determine whether people are truly in love—Emily responds that the art was used to show that clones “had souls at all,” since so many in post-war England believed, as above, that clones were “sub-human.”
Emily and Madame here note that the Gallery, far from being used solely to exhibit art, was intended to show something not about art but about the clones themselves—that they possessed the full human range of faculties, that they could think for themselves and produce something using their own natural creativity. What is so shocking about this, of course, is that we, as the reader, have seen Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth as full human beings—and only now see that others questioned their “human-ness” because they are in fact clones.
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But Emily notes that all this came to an end once the Morningdale Scandal struck. Kathy asks what this scandal was, and Emily responds that, in Scotland, a rogue scientist named Morningdale began experimenting on clones whose attributes could be “selected” when the clone was created. These clones cause people to fear that Morningdale could create something like a “super-race” of clones. This caused an uproar across the country, and made it more difficult to argue for the ethical treatment of those clones that already existed. This negative tide caused financial support for institutions like Hailsham to “dry up,” and by the 1990s, Hailsham and other places like it had run out of money, and were forced to close.
The “Morningdale” scandal is Ishiguro’s way of showing why Hailsham had to be shut down. Perhaps this scandal is a bit shadowy and simple-seeming—one could envision other scenarios, in which Hailsham simply languished due to lack of funds, since money was allocated to other places and at other times (surely this has happened in other fields in the post-war period in the US and the UK). But Ishiguro here preferred to show the fear that had gathered among the English regarding cloning, even as they came to depend on clone organs for their own health.
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Miss Emily says, however, that she now must go, since her assistant is arranging for the sale of a piece of furniture. Tommy and Kathy say that this is all difficult and disappointing news to hear, and that for them it’s not an exercise—“it’s their lives.” Emily and Madame seem to understand this, and apologize that there’s nothing else they can do—that Kathy and Tommy must simply “let their lives run their course.”
What’s so poignant about this advice is the fact that, as Madame urges, everyone’s life must “run its course” after a certain juncture. Ishiguro wants to underline the amount that fate, chance, and destiny commingle in all human lives. Perhaps we are not “meant” to do what we do—perhaps we have more choices than the clones—but, at a certain point, all humans must come to terms with one unchangeable fact—that their lives will one day end.
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When Tommy brings up Miss Lucy, Emily dimly remembers her, and states that Lucy opposed the way that the school elided over certain facts of clone life until the clones were older. Emily goes on to defend her firing of Lucy, saying that things were better the way they went at Hailsham, and that Lucy’s method would have been no better for the clones in the long run. When Kathy complains that Madame always found the clones “repulsive,” Emily defends her, saying Madame “gave her life” for the clones, and that she (Emily) was also “repulsed” by the students—it took all her efforts to repress her distaste for them, even as she wanted dearly to help them—since cloning seemed unnatural to all non-cloned humans, no matter how sympathetic they were.
This point—that Emily and Madame, despite their desire to help the clones, always continued fearing them—seems especially human, plausible, and true. Cloning would produce an eerie effect in society, a group of people who have some traits in common with their clone originals, but who are not children of those originals, and who are used solely for instrumental purposes, for the harvesting of organs. It would perhaps require a supernatural humanity to be able to relate immediately to a clone as one would to a normal human. Yet that is what Madame and Emily wanted to try to do.
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Emily says, however, that she “really must go” outside, and so Kathy and Tommy walk out and watch Emily's assistant help Emily into her car. Madame and Kathy have a final conversation, in which Kathy reminds Madame about their chance meeting while Kathy was listening to “Never Let Me Go.” Madame recalls the incident. She marvels that Kathy remembers so vividly, and that Kathy seemed even then to understand what was going through Madame’s mind as she wept while watching Kathy dance.
But despite Emily and Madame’s best efforts, and all the work they have put in, they also recognize that clones have the rules of their lives set, and that they cannot change those rules—no one can, short of some major alteration in the government of England and in clones’ rights. This fatalism is damning to Tommy and Kathy and is of course not true. The clones could be allowed to live out their lives in peace—but the people of England still want their donated clone organs.
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Kathy explains her fantasy regarding the child in her arms, and Madame counters that, although she didn’t necessarily she that version of the fantasy, she (Madame) nevertheless detected that Kathy was trying to cling to an “old kind world” with her slow dance, a world that no longer existed—and that the song seemed to reference. Madame wept because she knew that the clones would be flung into a crueler world—one that is better for some (recipients of the organs) but far worse, indeed unthinkable for others (the clones themselves). This is what made her weep. At this, Madame calls Tommy and Kathy “poor creatures,” gets choked up again, and touches Kathy on the cheek, saying “she wishes she could help. But now they are by themselves.” Madame then goes back inside, and Kathy and Tommy return to Kingsfield.
Madame shows that the interaction with Kathy, while Kathy was dancing alone, was just as important to her as it was to Kathy. This is an important and touching moment in the novel, and one that Ishiguro orchestrates well. For Madame alone understands just how cruel and difficult the outside world is for the clones, and indeed for all humans. She helped create Hailsham to make this world seem a little less cruel, to give clones some comfort, but ultimately to allow continue to clones along their life-path toward donation. And the complexity of this moral situation reduced Madame to tears.
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On the drive back, Kathy notes that the two of them spoke little. But soon, after it gets dark and they are on back roads, Tommy asks Kathy to stop the car near a cow-field. Tommy gets out into the dark, and then Kathy hears “three screams.” She rushes into the field to find Tommy having one of his tantrums, just like he did when he was in Hailsham. Kathy this time manages to grab hold of Tommy and calm him down, and Tommy apologizes for his outburst, and gets back into the car covered in mud from his flailing and kicking.
Tommy’s final outburst is in many ways the emotional center of the novel. He knows there is nothing he can do now—his animals and the hopes of deferral were all he had to keep going. His relationship with Kathy, like the rest of his life, must now “run its course,” he rails against the world, against all external pressures, forcing him to continue on a life-path he has not been allowed to choose for himself.
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But this time, Kathy’s response to Tommy and his tantrum is different. Kathy tells Tommy that, “back at Hailsham,” when Tommy would have tantrums, perhaps it wasn’t because he was immature, but because “he knew something that the other students didn’t” about the unfairness of the world into which they would soon be released. Although Tommy protests for a moment, saying that his tantrums are only an indication of him “being an idiot,” he relents somewhat, acknowledging that perhaps, “deep down,” he “knew something the rest of you didn’t.”
A major revelation, although perhaps the reader has sensed this for some time. Tommy’s anger, but his ability, also, to accept his fate as a clone, to understand why seeing a “possible” is of no importance—all these things point to his ultimate maturity and self-knowledge. Ruth did not have this knowledge—she could not “get over herself”—and as a consequence, Ruth pushed away those that were closest to her.
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