Never Let Me Go

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Madame Character Analysis

Long thought to be Miss Emily’s superior and the “real” head of Hailsham, Madame is revealed to be co-founder of Hailsham with Miss Emily. Madame reveals to Tommy and Kathy that she has long cared about clone rights, and that she believes the new world, in which clones serve as “organ farms” for “normal” people, is a “cruel” one. Madame regrets that she cannot do more to help Tommy and Kathy change their fate.

Madame Quotes in Never Let Me Go

The Never Let Me Go quotes below are all either spoken by Madame or refer to Madame. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Never Let Me Go published in 2006.
Chapter 3 Quotes

If she doesn’t like us, why does she want our work? Why doesn’t she just leave us alone? Who asks her to come here anyway?

Related Characters: Laura (speaker), Madame
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 35-36
Explanation and Analysis:

Laura, a minor character in the story and one of Kathy's friends, approaches the Madame to ask about the Gallery. What surprises Laura—and Kathy, Ruth, and the others—is the utter "repulsion" they see on the Madame's face. Laura and the others have always had a sense that they are marked, or "other"—that they are students in a "special" school. But they do not quite understand what makes them special, even if they are told from an early age that they are clones, and that they will donate their organs to others. 

The episode with the Madame thus makes clear for the first time that non-clones are deeply afraid of the clone students, even as they run their lives with precision and a degree of humanity, treating them to a boarding-school-like environment. Laura, Kathy, and Ruth feel like humans—they think, they emote, they wonder about their futures. Indeed, they are human, but the prejudice of non-clones against them keeps them separate and dehumanized, with no chance to change their own fates.

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Chapter 6 Quotes

I froze in shock. Then within a second or two, I began to feel a new kind of alarm, because I could see there was something strange about the situation. The door was almost half open . . . but Madame hadn’t nearly come up to the threshold. She was out in the corridor, standing very still . . . . And the odd thing was she was crying. It might even have been one of her sobs that had come through the song to jerk me out of me dream.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Madame
Related Symbols: The Judy Bridgewater Tape, The Judy Bridgewater Tape, Hailsham
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of the most important passages in the novel. Kathy believes that the song "Never Let Me Go" is about a mother who does not wish to "let go" of her child, and by dancing to herself in her room, miming this song, Kathy is participating in a fantasy of motherly love. Kathy, like some other Hailsham students, expresses a dim and abstract desire to have a family. She wonders what it would be like to care for someone in that way, to maintain that form of "normal" human connection she has witnessed in representations (film and book) of life outside the school's gates. 

What Kathy does not quite realize, however, is what Madame knows all too well: Kathy can never have a family. She is condemned to a life in which she must "care" for others by giving of herself in the most serious and sustained way. Kathy's donation of organs is a kind of selflessness beyond anything conceivable for a non-clone. And though the reader is slowly putting together the nature of Kathy's sacrifice, it is Madame's teary understanding of Kathy's humanity, in this scene, that sets the stage for further revelations later on in the novel. 

Chapter 16 Quotes

God, Tommy, these must take so much concentration. I’m surprised you can see well enough in here to do all this tiny stuff. I wonder what Madame would say if she saw these.
I suppose I’ll have to get a lot better before she gets to see any of it.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Tommy (speaker), Madame
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

Kathy deeply enjoys seeing Tommy's work. She believes that the animals Tommy creates are a genuine and eccentric expression of Tommy's creativity, and she believes that Tommy really has a chance, in showing the animals to the "powers that be" (namely the Madame), to prove that the clones are worthy of at least some input into the course of their lives. In other words, Kathy likes the animals because they are an expression of what makes Tommy Tommy. And she likes, too, that the animals might be a way of convincing people in positions of power that clone creativity is akin to "normal" non-clone creativity.

Ruth, for her part, will use Kathy's initial response to Tommy's animals—a kind of quiet awe and surprise—and warp it, to make it seem that Kathy believes Tommy's work to be crude and upsettingly strange. In other words, Ruth will distort Kathy's feelings toward Tommy for her own ends. Ruth does this later on because she is threatened by Kathy and Tommy's intimacy—because she worries that Tommy really loves Kathy, and not her. 

Chapter 21 Quotes

Poor creatures. What did we do to you? With all our schemes and plans?

Related Characters: Madame (speaker), Kathy H. , Tommy
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 254
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Madame wonders aloud whether Hailsham was, after all, a good thing. The initial idea of Hailsham, as she goes on to explain, was to help clones to feel like members of society‚to make sure they had hobbies, friends, and fond memories—before becoming donors and caretakers. The idea undergirding the Hailsham system was thus a fundamentally humanist and benevolent one, even if the reality that that system supported was inhumane.

But as the Madame and Miss Emily go on to explain, the Hailsham system was something like a Band-Aid over a disturbed and upsetting system, wherein humans were used and "mined" to keep others alive. The enrichment that Hailsham therefore afforded the young donors came to seem, to many, like an ever-greater cruelty. Because, of course, neither Tommy nor Kathy could actually live the kind of "normal" life that was, in some sense, modeled for them at Hailsham. The Madame therefore reveals the ambivalence built into the institution of Hailsham: a desire to ready clones for their jobs without necessarily explaining directly what those jobs would be—to build up their hopes and dreams and then crush them.

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Madame Character Timeline in Never Let Me Go

The timeline below shows where the character Madame appears in Never Let Me Go. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
Individual Goals vs. Social Expectations Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
...some other “puzzling” things she’s seen around the school recently. Notably, Kathy asks Tommy why “Madame” (a very businesslike woman, whom they believe to be the superintendent of Hailsham, though she... (full context)
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
...the present, and tells the reader a little about the Gallery. Every so often, the Madame would come to Hailsham, and the students assumed that, when she did so, she would... (full context)
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
...all lying awake in their dorm, talking as usual, and Ruth mentioned that she thinks Madame is afraid of the Hailsham students. Kathy and the other girls wonder if this can... (full context)
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The girls see Madame, and gathering in a line, they walk toward her, saying hello. The girls—especially Kathy and... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Individual Goals vs. Social Expectations Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
...the sale and the exchange. But because some students had their work taken away by Madame, supposedly for inclusion in the Gallery, before the work could be exchanged to another student,... (full context)
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Individual Goals vs. Social Expectations Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
...in compensation for their work. But Miss Emily also noted that having art selected by Madame was “a great honor.” When Kathy and some other students bring up the Tokens later,... (full context)
Chapter 6
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
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Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
...this—playing the song loudly, and dancing along, as though cradling a child to her chest—when Madame walked past her open door. Kathy was mortified, and noticed that Madame was watching her... (full context)
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...knew, at that point, that she and other students couldn’t have children. Kathy wondered whether Madame sympathized with her for this reason, and Tommy seemed to agree—but Kathy also noted that... (full context)
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A few weeks after the “Madame incident,” Kathy continues telling the reader, the tape “disappeared” from Kathy’s collection. Kathy wondered whether... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...often talked about the office, and that Ruth should have “pushed her case” with the Madame, and tried to see if she could delay her caring and donation in order to... (full context)
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Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
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...he cannot respond. Ruth suddenly gives Tommy a sheet of paper on which she’s written Madame’s address—Ruth admits that finding it took a lot of work, but she knew it was... (full context)
Chapter 20
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They generally avoid the subject of speaking to Madame, and one day, Tommy asks Kathy to look again at some of the new animals... (full context)
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Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
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...donors in other places—and tells Tommy that, because she was near the place listed as Madame’s address, she parked outside Madame’s house and did in fact see Madame going inside. Kathy... (full context)
Chapter 21
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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,... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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Madame seems to find this idea about the gallery ingenious, even as she indicates, in her... (full context)
Chapter 22
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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... (full context)
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
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...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”... (full context)
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
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Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
Maturation and “Growing Up” Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...notes that things between herself and Tommy become strained after the meeting with Emily and Madame, perhaps because they know there is no more deferral—that the animals no longer matter. Tommy... (full context)
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...everything Tommy and Kathy found out, about Hailsham and their own lives, from Emily and Madame. But Tommy notes that Ruth “wanted to believe in things,” and that, therefore, it’s probably... (full context)