Never Let Me Go

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Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Never Let Me Go, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon

Perhaps the most important theme in the novel is that of love, care, and donation. “Care” and “donation” might be interpreted each in two ways. In the first, technical definition, care is that which a carer provides to a donor—the kind of human interaction a donor needs when facing the pain of organ donation. And “donation” refers either to the giving away of organs or, earlier, at Hailsham, to the giving away of art—which, Kathy realizes, is a process of education for the clones, so that the guardians are constantly reminding the young clones of their duties to “give away” and “give selflessly” as a precursor to their enforced obligation to give up their organs.

In particular, art is considered a “representation” of the students, a “part of them.” Thus, the donation of art conditions the students to the necessity of “giving away a part of themselves.” From a young age, then, Kathy acknowledges that the clones have been educated to find the “donation of a part of themselves” to be integral to their lives. Kathy also admits that she knew, intuitively, even in youth, that this made the students at Hailsham special, different from the rest of (non-cloned) society. Because of the centrality of art-class and the donation of art to other students, Hailsham students are trained to believe that their eventual donation of organs is a continuation of this spirit of giving. Similarly, the act of caring for their donors, in the position of carer, is considered a kind of social obligation, just as giving and appreciating the art of their fellow-students was a facet of life at Hailsham.

But, of course, care and donation have broader definitions as well. Kathy truly does care for Tommy and for Ruth, and her “caring” for them means not just fulfilling her job’s duties, but rather, it implies a genuine connection, and an attempt to mend the rifts of the past. Kathy and Tommy give their bodies, their time, and their trust to one another; Ruth’s primary act of generosity is to acknowledge that she has always come between Kathy and Tommy’s relationship. Kathy realizes that she loves Tommy—that she always has—and that this love, and this bond also with Ruth, are the things that make life worthwhile.

Kathy also has a genuine love and reverence for Hailsham, the place that made them all feel safe as youths. Although Kathy understands that she cannot have a normal, non-clone life—a life symbolized by the song “Never Let Me Go,” which Kathy imagines to involve a mother talking to her child—Kathy nevertheless constructs a meaningful life based on loving, caring interactions with Ruth and Tommy. Only in giving herself to them, and accepting the things they have given to her, does Kathy come to realize the emotional “realness” of her otherwise circumscribed existence.

Loving, Caring, and Donation ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Loving, Caring, and Donation appears in each chapter of Never Let Me Go. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Loving, Caring, and Donation Quotes in Never Let Me Go

Below you will find the important quotes in Never Let Me Go related to the theme of Loving, Caring, and Donation.
Chapter 1 Quotes

So I reached forward and put a hand on his arm. Afterwards, the others thought he’d meant to do it, but I was pretty sure it was unintentional. His arms were still flailing about, and he wasn’t to know I was about to put out my hand. Anyway, as he threw up his arm, he knocked my hand aside and hit the side of my face.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Tommy
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

Tommy's "wild furies" are one of his defining features as a character. In the beginning of his time at Hailsham, these furies are viewed—by students and those in positions of authority—as part of his immature state. Tommy, by the administrators' logic, is an aberration, a student who needs to be normalized to behave more quietly like the other Hailsham students. 

Kathy, however, seems to understand that Tommy's anguish runs deeper. Tommy, in this instance, is not just mad that he has ruined his shirt, or that he has been made a fool of in the schoolyard. Kathy senses that Tommy's fits are in some way involuntary (particularly in their physical manifestations), and that he is actually upset by the constraints of the school itself—even if Tommy himself does not understand why Hailsham is such a hard place for him to live and study. This behavior of Tommy's, his willingness to test, without exactly knowing why, the norms of his life, will induce in Kathy a desire to question some of the rules she lives by—and that society places on her and the other donors.


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Chapter 2 Quotes

Well . . . . The thing is, it might sound strange. It did to me at first. What she said was that if I didn’t want to be creative, if I really didn’t feel like it, that was perfectly all right. Nothing wrong with it, she said.

Related Characters: Tommy (speaker), Kathy H. , Miss Lucy
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the novel, Tommy has developed a willingness to discuss some of his more complex emotional states and problems with Kathy. Tommy's conversation with Miss Lucy—in which Lucy argues that Tommy doesn't have to be creative at Hailsham, despite an institutional emphasis on art classes—is one instance of an emotionally thorny and confusing episode.

What is especially odd about the conversation between Lucy and Tommy is the fact that, as revealed later, Tommy really is creative. He is a talented cartoonist, and his "animals," as he and Kathy call them, are intricately modeled and imaginative representations of his inner life. What Lucy appears to be telling Tommy, in a halting manner, is that Tommy, Kathy, and the other students have lives that are set out for them in advance. They do not have before them the kinds of choices that others must make as they mature. In some sense, this makes Hailsham a prep school that prepares its students for non-life—for organ donation and eventual death. It also means that Hailsham "classes" are, in a sense, just filler until the realities of the students' fates set in. 

Chapter 3 Quotes

The gallery Tommy and I were discussing was something we’d all of us grown up with. Everyone talked about it as though it existed, though in truth none of us knew for sure that it did.

Related Characters: Tommy (speaker), Kathy H.
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

The Gallery is an example of a persistent and convincing rumor that is maintained among the students of Hailsham. It claims that the Headmaster of the school selects the students' best art to adorn a Gallery, one that is then, presumably, shown to others in some capacity—although the students are not allowed to leave Hailsham, and therefore do not know exactly where this Gallery could be.

This passage is important for several reasons. It demonstrates the Hailsham students' desire to learn about the world beyond the school's walls. The myth of the Gallery generates among the students a real interest in creative work, not just for self-expression but for a way to become, in a sense, "famous," an exhibited artist showing work to others. It also shows the way that stories of the outside world are generated within Hailsham, and how they attempt to explain what is ultimately beyond the donors' control. The students' lives, even after Hailsham, are circumscribed by their institutionally-determined role as people who will give organs to non-clones. But the students also live a kind of gentle fantasy, in which their art might be shown to the world, and their creative efforts might be praised alongside those of non-cloned individuals.

Chapter 4 Quotes

I accepted the invisible rein she was holding out, and then we were off, riding up and down the fence, sometimes cantering, sometimes at a gallop. I’d been correct in my decision to tell Ruth I didn’t have any horses of my own, because after a while with Bramble, she let me try her various other horses one by one, shouting all sorts of instructions about how to handle each animal’s foibles.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Ruth
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Kathy's relationship with Ruth is one of the central relationships in the novel. Kathy finds in Ruth someone she can talk to—but Ruth for a long time acts superior to Kathy, as though she knows things about Hailsham Kathy doesn't know. Ruth, to Kathy, appears to be someone whose future is not necessarily marked out in advance. For Kathy this is intoxicating. Ruth's imagination, like Tommy's, is different from that of the run-of-the-mill Hailsham student.

Ruth's horse-riding, as an imaginary activity, is indicative of her view of life. Ruth pretends that she can "grow up" the way other people (non-clones) do. Like them, Ruth believes she might have a future where she achieves wealth or fame, or has a family. Ruth's relationship with Tommy, once it develops, has in it a kind of seriousness that, to Kathy, appears more mature and separate from other sexual dalliances that are common at Hailsham. Thus, in "extending the reins" to Kathy in this scene, Ruth both opens the possibility of friendship and pairs with it a slight feeling of superiority—as though she is deigning to speak to Kathy despite Kathy's relative immaturity. 

Chapter 5 Quotes

When it came down to it, though, I don’t recall our taking many practical steps towards defending Miss Geraldine; our activities always revolved around gathering more and more evidence concerning the plot itself.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Ruth, Miss Geraldine
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Ruth's earlier fantasy of riding imaginary horses on the Hailsham grounds is a prelude to some of her more involved fantasies. The "plot" against Miss Geraldine is Ruth's idea. The other girls follow it, including Kathy, although, as Kathy here notes, they do so not because they think the plot is actually true. Instead, they want to appease Ruth, who is more or less the leader of their group. They want to show her they are "cool" and capable of thinking "outside the box" of normal Hailsham students.

The idea that Miss Geraldine might be kidnapped points to a larger threat of violence, which creeps in as the novel goes on. For the clones at Hailsham will, in fact, be subjected to terrible, painful procedures as they age—their organs will be harvested until they expire. Their fate is the stuff of science fiction horror. That is the primary dramatic irony of the book—that the students fantasize about a world of mythical and violent behavior, yet they themselves will be subject to institutional violence as they mature. 

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 7 Quotes

The problem, as I see it, is that you’ve been told and not told. You’ve been told, but none of you really understand, and I dare say, some people are quite happy to leave it that way. But I’m not. If you’re going to have decent lives, then you’ve got to know and know properly. . . . Your lives are set out for you. You’ll become adults . . . and before you’re even middle-aged, you’ll start to donate your vital organs. That’s what each of you was created to do.

Related Characters: Miss Lucy (speaker), Kathy H. , Ruth, Tommy
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

This is another very important passage in the novel, and a scene in which Miss Lucy's relationship to the students changes somewhat. Before, Lucy has been content in maintaining Hailsham policy while also engaging with the students more directly and openly, telling them that they are special, that their lives will be determined by rules that don't necessarily apply for non-clones. Lucy has not, till this point, used the term "clone," but she nevertheless feels that the "special" status of Hailsham students must be addressed and explained to them.

What changes in this section is the directness with which Lucy addresses the students. She has overhead some of them discussing possible careers they might like to entertain in later life, and some of them, just before Lucy begins to speak, have said they would like to be actors. This, for Lucy, is simply too much, and she has to speak. She notes that any career other than organ donation, or caring for other donors, is utterly impossible for Hailsham students. Here the reader learns just how serious and unchangeable the fate of Hailshamites is—they have no choice regarding their future, and their lives are wholly predetermined. 

Chapter 8 Quotes

And you didn’t want to do it in the fields even when it was warm enough, because you’d almost certainly discover afterwards you’d had an audience watching from the house passing round binoculars. In other words, for all the talk of sex being beautiful, we had the distinct impression we’d be in trouble if the guardians caught us at it.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Kathy note the ambivalence Hailsham seems to have toward sexual activity among its students. On the one hand, Hailsham students are, for reasons that are not explained, sterile—they cannot bear children of their own. This means that sexual activity will not have any pregnancy consequences, and that, therefore, the school seems not to mind too much that the students are having sex. Indeed, the school argues that students should be healthy and enjoy their bodies. It is implied that sex might somehow be better for them, and might lead to better organ health and improved donations later on.

But the school also doesn't really make it possible for the students to have sex. There might be several intertwining reasons for this—a kind of prudishness, or a feeling that sex between clones is something that non-clones find repellent or wrong. At any rate, Kathy understands that sex is neither prohibited nor explicitly a part of school life—and it is this relatively consequence-less quality of sex that makes the act feel less romantic, less a part of human maturation, than it might be for non-clones. 

Chapter 9 Quotes

Don’t you realize, we won’t be here together like this much longer?
I do realize that, Kath. That’s exactly why I can’t rush back into it with Ruth. We’ve got to think about the next move really carefully . . . . Like you say, Kath. We’re going to be leaving here soon. It’s not like a game any more. We’ve got to think carefully.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Tommy (speaker), Ruth
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

One of the threads running throughout the novel is the love triangle between Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy. Ruth, who in many ways presents herself as someone who "knows the ropes" and is mature and world-wise, snags Tommy early on. They date for some time, and though their relationship seems largely happy, they break up toward the end of their time at Hailsham.

But Ruth quickly realizes that she wants Tommy back, and she enlists Kathy to help her do this. Kathy talks to Tommy, and when Tommy says he is weighing his options in getting back with Ruth, Kathy also seems to demonstrate real concern for Tommy, although she never tells him outright that she has romantic feelings for him. 

Kathy's inability to assert herself quite so strongly as Ruth is therefore a refrain in the novel. Ruth, in Kathy's eyes, gets "what she wants." Kathy is more passive, she tends to listen, to offer advice when asked—but she has a harder time maintaining a romance, or even identifying to herself what she wants. The reader often has the feeling that he or she knows more than Kathy about Kathy's own emotional state. 

Chapter 10 Quotes

For the first weeks after we arrived, she [Ruth] made a big deal of it, always putting her arm around Tommy . . . it wasn’t long before Ruth realized the way she’d been carrying on with Tommy was all wrong for the Cottages, and she set about changing how they did things in front of people.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Ruth, Tommy
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

What Kathy notes here, without offering her own opinion on the matter, is Ruth's ability to adapt her behavior quickly to her surroundings. Ruth is concerned, perhaps excessively so, with what other people think of her—she is always trying to seem "in the know," prepared for whatever the world will throw at her. Ruth enjoys showing Kathy that she, Ruth, acts like a grownup, while Kathy tends to follow behind, passively waiting for others to show her the way.

Thus Ruth felt at Hailsham that one demonstrated one's relationship status by openly embracing a partner in front of others—showing her possession of Tommy. When Ruth realizes that this is "uncool," that "the veterans" at the Cottages do not demonstrate their love in this way, she demurs, and instead touches Tommy in front of others in a more subtle or sly manner.

Kathy, for her part, announces these changes to the reader, sensing what they might tell him or her about Ruth. But Kathy refrains from saying too much on top of this—she does not blame Ruth openly for being so quick to court the favor of those around her. Only much later will Kathy speak with Ruth more honestly about the ways Ruth makes Kathy feel. 

Come to think of it, I suppose you haven’t been that slow making friends with at least some of the veterans.

Related Characters: Ruth (speaker), Kathy H.
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of Ruth's crueler statements—indeed, the depths of Ruth's cruelty toward Kathy are found when the two of them are at the Cottages together. Ruth is here implying that Kathy has slept with a good deal of the men in the Cottages—and even that Kathy has a "problem" with her sexuality, that she cannot control her urges. 

Ruth, by contrast, makes it seem like she easily and effortlessly maintains total fidelity to Tommy. Ruth implies that Kathy's behavior with some of the men in the Cottages has marked her as a promiscuous person. And in saying it in this way, sideways rather than directly, Ruth also implies that many people at the Cottages know about this—that Ruth is somehow doing Kathy a "favor" by telling her what others are supposedly whispering about Kathy's sexual exploits.

Chapter 11 Quotes

You were different. I remember. You were never embarrassed about your collection and you kept it. I wish now I’d done that too.

Related Characters: Ruth (speaker), Kathy H.
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a moment that occurs before Ruth's comment about Kathy's sex life at the Cottages, but that Kathy relates to the reader only after the other conversation. Ruth, because of her desire to seem mature, gets rid of her "collection" of gifts and other objects from Hailsham. She does not want to be tethered to memories of that place, the way that Kathy and perhaps Tommy do. Ruth looks only forward, into a future where she wonders whether she can't escape the life prescribed to her as a donor.

This passage also sheds light on Kathy's relationship to her own past and future. Kathy loves Hailsham—she thinks of it fondly, and when Hailsham closes later in the novel, Kathy mourns its loss even though she knows she can never go back there. Hailsham represents a time of companionship and learning—even though her "preparation" was to be a clone donor, and not for any other worldly future. But Kathy also has a sense of her own future that is in line with the one prepared for her at Hailsham. Kathy wants to be a caretaker—she looks forward to helping other people. 

Chapter 12 Quotes

The point about Chrissie—and this applied to a lot of the veterans—was that for all her slightly patronizing manner towards us when we’d first arrived, she was awestruck about our being from Hailsham. It took me a long time to realize this.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Chrissie
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

Kathy informs the reader that the "Hailsham" name carries a great deal of weight, especially among those who were not educated there. It has a pedigree—it is a school unlike other academies where donors are prepared for their jobs. 

Kathy does not tell the reader how she was selected for Hailsham, or how that process works—which donors are assigned to which schools as young children. But she does convey just how special Hailsham is to her. What one learns in this passage, then, is that others feel the Hailsham "mystique" as strongly as Kathy herself does.

Later in the novel, however, Hailsham will be revealed to be just one method of socializing young donors—and it gains its "pedigree" because of how comfortable and progressive it is compared to other clone schools. Other methods are not so developed, and many are even quite barbaric. Instead of resembling prep schools, other donor academies are more like prisons or barracks, where donors are fed and housed but not enriched culturally. 

Chapter 13 Quotes

You know, Ruth, we might be coming here in a few years’ time to visit you. Working in a nice office. I don’t see how anyone could stop us visiting you then.

Related Characters: Chrissie (speaker), Ruth
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage relates to the concept of a "possible," or the person upon whom a clone donor was modeled and therefore "produced." The trip to Norfolk is both a vacation and a journey to see if Ruth's possible might, in fact, be there. Chrissie, Rodney, Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth travel all that way in order to try and glimpse a world they have always hoped to be possible—a world in which they, as donors, are related to others who lead normal lives in the world.

What is less clear, in this passage, is just what Chrissie and Ruth actually believe about the possible. If, say, they were to stumble upon a person who resembles Ruth—would they talk to her? Would Ruth be able to live the life that the possible was also living? Although the donors perhaps sense that these ideas are fantastical and impossible, they are nevertheless invested in seeking out answers—as much for their own entertainment and desperate hope as anything else. 

Chapter 14 Quotes

We all know it. We’re modeled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just so long as they aren’t psychos. That’s what we come from. We all know it, so why don’t we say it?

Related Characters: Ruth (speaker), Kathy H. , Tommy , Chrissie
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

Up till this point, Ruth has spoken to others as though she were not constrained by the cultural expectations of donors. For example, Ruth has made it seem that she might be able to work in an office, like her "possible." She has also asked some of the other couples at the Cottages whether it is in fact possible for donor couples who are in love to ask for a deferral of their donation duties, so that they might have more time together. All these utterances combined make it seem that Ruth really believes she has a life outside the predetermined course for all donors.

Here, however, Ruth blurts out what she really thinks. Ruth is aware not only that her clone life is unchangeable, but she knows, too, that she and the others are probably cloned from "undesirable" personages in society—that clones are at the absolute bottom of the social ladder, that they are used only to make sure that other, "normal" people can live. Ruth is devastated by this information, which is why she goes to such great lengths to make it seem that she is not concerned with it at all. 

Chapter 15 Quotes

Well . . . I really wanted to find it [the cassette tape] for you. And when it looked in the end like it wasn’t going to turn up, I just said to myself, one day I’ll go to Norfolk, and I’ll find it there for her.
The lost corner of England! And here we are!

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Tommy (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Judy Bridgewater Tape
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

This joke between Tommy and Kathy about the "lost corner of England" is one that unites them. Tommy genuinely wishes to find another version of the Judy Bridgewater tape of "Never Let Me Go" for Kathy. He seems even to think that the version he finds in Norfolk will be the very same version that Kathy lost. Even though Kathy knows better, she is delighted to share in this caper with Tommy.

Tommy and Kathy's friendship is defined by this sort of reciprocal care and shared hopes. While Tommy is with Ruth, Kathy remains a good friend to them both, even making sure the couple gets back together before leaving Hailsham for the Cottages. Kathy's behavior toward Tommy and Ruth is thus an elaboration of her own selflessness. She is willing to put her friendship with each of them ahead of her underlying desire to be with Tommy in a romantic way. 

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 17 Quotes

Well, Kathy, what you have to realize is that Tommy doesn’t see you like that. He really, really likes you, he thinks you’re really great. But I know he doesn’t see you like, you know, a proper girlfriend. Besides, you know how Tommy is. He can be fussy . . . . Tommy doesn’t like girls who’ve been with . . . well, you know, with this person and that.

Related Characters: Ruth (speaker), Kathy H. , Tommy
Page Number: 200-201
Explanation and Analysis:

This is another instance of Ruth's cruelty toward and manipulation of Kathy. Ruth makes this point about Tommy's lack of affection for Kathy because Ruth senses that Kathy and Tommy do in fact have a real intimacy. The two get along very well, they speak confidentially to one another, and Tommy has shown Kathy the nature of his artistic work—something that Ruth perhaps feels is too intimate to be shown to anyone other than herself.

Ruth thus combines several threads she has used before against Kathy. She argues that Kathy has been too promiscuous previously, and that this is something Tommy "wouldn't like." She makes it seem, too, that Tommy has always considered Kathy to be nothing more than a friend—a person in whom he can confide, but not an object of romantic interest. And Ruth makes it seem that only she is a "proper girlfriend" for Tommy—that she is the only person who can treat Tommy the way a boyfriend ought to be treated. 

Chapter 18 Quotes

It was that exchange, when we finally mentioned the closing of Hailsham, that suddenly brought us close again, and we hugged, quite spontaneously, not so much to comfort one another, but as a way of affirming Hailsham, the fact that it was still there in both of our memories.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Laura
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

Laura and Kathy, unlike Ruth, are attracted to Hailsham as a place and as an idea. For them Hailsham has been a source of real comfort. It was one of the highlights of Kathy's life—a time when she was surrounded by good friends and genuine companionship. Kathy takes great pains to point out to the reader that, after Hailsham, life for donors becomes increasingly isolated, until the donor has only one meaningful relationship remaining—that of the donor and the caretaker, who will also become a donor in due time.

Laura and Kathy therefore reconnect because they are happy to see each other. But, more importantly, they are happy to remind each other of a time they both shared, a time when they were embedded in a meaningful and sustained community. This is exactly what each of them, and many of the others donors, have been lacking since leaving Hailsham several years before. 

Chapter 19 Quotes

I’d like you to forgive me, but I don’t expect you to. Anyway, that’s not the half of it, not even a small bit of it, actually. The main thing is, I kept you and Tommy apart. That was the worst thing I did. . . . What I want is for you to put it right. Put right what I messed up for you.

Related Characters: Ruth (speaker), Kathy H. , Tommy
Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis:

This outburst of Ruth's, which is designed as an apology to Kathy and to Tommy, is very similar to Ruth's outburst of several years before, when Ruth argues that they all know they are cloned from "undesirable" personages in society. In this case, Ruth again wishes to clear her conscience of something that has been weighing on her for some time, and that she has been trying to keep repressed or secret.

The primary difference, however, has to do with Ruth's relationship to other people. In her first outburst, Ruth argued against the existence of her own "possible" because she was so exasperated by her own lack of opportunity in the world. Her outburst was thus not so much directed toward others but toward her own despair. In this latter instance, however, Ruth realizes that her behaviors of the past have influenced the possibility of a relationship between Kathy and Tommy. Ruth wishes, in this case, to atone for something she has done wrong—to make it right while Kathy and Tommy are still alive and able to spend time together. 

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.

Chapter 22 Quotes

I was thinking about back then, at Hailsham, when you used to go bonkers like that, and we couldn’t understand it. We couldn’t understand how you could ever get like that. . . . I was thinking maybe the reason you used to get like that was because at some level you always knew.
. . . That’s a funny idea. Maybe I did know, somewhere deep down. Something the rest of you didn’t.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Tommy (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:

Kathy realizes at the end of the text just how deep and intuitive Tommy's sense of himself has always been. Tommy has known, and been frustrated by, the total impossibility of a "normal" life for the clones. Tommy knew this, and harbored this frustration, even in his early days at Hailsham, when he used to get angry when others would make fun of him. Tommy saw what was at the end of the road, beyond the Hailsham gates, and he saw this far more clearly than anyone else.

Kathy, too, has sensed that clone life did not really fit in with the mirage of a more normal life that was made apparent to the clones at Hailsham. But Kathy was not so openly angry about this. Instead, Kathy's tone throughout the book has been one of wistfulness, a nostalgia touched with sadness but never completely angry. This feeling of the loveliness of the past, and the fact that the past can never be reclaimed, is something that knits Tommy and Kathy together by the novel's end. 

Chapter 23 Quotes

. . . and if I waited long enough, a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field, and gradually get larger until I’d see it was Tommy, and he’d wave, maybe even call. . . . and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn’t sobbing . . . I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.

Related Characters: Kathy H. (speaker), Tommy
Related Symbols: Hailsham
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of the most affecting and beautiful passages in the novel. What becomes painfully clear, by the end, is the depth of Kathy's love for Tommy. Their romance has been, and remains, impossible. Each must die, and before that, each must care for another donor. Their lives cannot be changed. Their love, powerful as it is, cannot alter their circumstances.

But this does not mean that Kathy and Tommy cannot love each other. That is one of the deep and affirming lessons of "Never Let Me Go." Tommy and Kathy remain attached to one another even after Tommy's death, because Kathy tries as hard as she can to remember her friend and lover as he was, to place him in her mind among the beautiful fields of Hailsham. It is a great sadness that this past cannot extend indefinitely into the future. But the past really did happen—it was real. And Kathy insists on this reality until the end of her own life.