Klara believes the Sun helped Josie just as it helped Beggar Man. Seasons and years go by. Josie does well with tutorials and she and the Mother often argue about college, particularly since Rick is no longer interested in Atlas Brookings.
Although Part Five ends on a miraculous note, Part Six almost immediately returns to a more realistic tone, with Rick not getting his acceptance to Atlas Brookings.
Josie begins to go away on trips with other young adults, which are considered an important part of her college preparation. Rick still comes over, but less often, particularly as he gets involved with his own projects, including a used car he buys.
As Josie and Rick approach college age, the difference in privilege between them becomes more apparent. Josie’s new friends are richer and can afford trips, whereas Rick gets involved with used cars, suggesting that rather than going to college to get a white-collar job, he is on track to start a blue-collar job (like, say, as a mechanic).
The last time Klara sees Rick is when she goes out to greet him after hearing his car. Rick says that, thinking back, he remembers the morning when the Sun came into Josie’s room and how it seemed like that was the moment she started feeling better. At the time, he thought Klara’s actions in the barn were all AF superstition, but now he wonders if there was something more. Klara says her actions in the barn involved such a special favor that she still doesn’t want to discuss them.
Rick told the Mother what she needed to hear when Josie’s illness was at her worst, and now he tells Klara what she needs to hear by validating her faith in the Sun. Perhaps Rick does so because he knows that, with Josie headed to college, Klara will soon have fulfilled her purpose as an Artificial Friend, or perhaps Rick genuinely was inspired by seeing Klara’s hope and spirituality, even at such a dark time.
Klara does mention, however, that she’s worried. She told the Sun that Josie and Rick’s love was real and forever, but it seems that they’re preparing for different futures. Rick says their love wasn’t a lie then and—in some ways—still isn’t a lie. He says he’ll always be searching for someone like the Josie he once knew.
Rick demonstrates a lot of maturity and introspection for his age, perhaps indicating that his difficulties with his mother, Miss Helen, have caused him to grow up quickly. Rick shows how the truth isn’t as straightforward as Klara believed it to be.
Rick asks about Melania Housekeeper, and Klara mentions she was trying to get accepted by a community in California. He then asks if Klara will be all right after Josie goes to college. She says the Mother is always kind to her. Rick says he is also always there if Klara ever needs him.
Although Melania Housekeeper seems to have been treated comparatively well by Josie’s family, the fact that she disappears suddenly and is only mentioned after the fact suggests that Melania Housekeeper must have had her own life outside of Josie’s family that Klara never knew about. It also suggests that maybe the employer-employee relationship between the Mother and Melania was more disposable than it seemed, even though Melania appeared at one point to be a member of the family.
More young adults come to visit Josie, now in their own cars (or hired cars) without parents. When they come, Klara gets out of the way and goes to the Utility Room. When Josie finds out Klara has been spending so much time in the room, she arranges a way for Klara to stand on a plastic crate to see out to the Sun.
The young people showing up without parents (as opposed to the interaction meeting, to which their parents accompanied them) suggests that, as Josie and her friends grow up, they become increasingly independent. This independence means that Josie has less of a need for Klara. Although Josie is mostly content to grow apart from Klara, she does seem to feel occasional moments of guilt, such as when she finds a crate in order to make Klara’s isolation more comfortable.
Like Josie, the Mother also has less to do with Klara. One day, she is surprised to walk in on the Mother talking with Mr. Capaldi. Mr. Capaldi says he has some things he wants to say to Klara.
Mr. Capaldi remains an ambiguous figure in the story—it is unclear whether he is an idealist who believes in the potential of technology or just someone who saw the Mother’s situation as an opportunity for him to advance his own research.
Mr. Capaldi says that lots of people are afraid of AFs at the moment because they believe they’re too smart. He believes people might be less afraid if they better understood how AFs work. Klara says she might be willing to help, as long as it won’t cause problems for Josie or the Mother. He wants to take Klara apart so that people can see her inner workings.
Mr. Capaldi’s speech seems to reference something that Klara witnessed outside the theater in the city, when a woman seemed to show prejudice against AFs. This passage tries to imagine how people in the real world might feel if artificial intelligence ever became advanced enough to rival human intelligence—and how many humans would probably fear what they didn’t understand. Still, Mr. Capaldi seems to lack empathy, not considering how his plan for the good of all AFs could end up being cruel to Klara. His proposal hints at the idea that some utopian tech ideas might have a dark side to them.
The Mother interrupts to say this isn’t what she and Mr. Capaldi discussed on the phone. She says she believes Klara deserves her “slow fade.” She refuses to let Klara even consider Mr. Capaldi’s offer. Mr. Capaldi wonders if it’s because the Mother is still mad at him, even though she originally approached him first.
The Mother recognizes that Klara is sentient enough to deserve a peaceful end of life. The image of Klara being taken apart is perhaps particularly horrifying to the Mother because she was, at one point, prepared for Klara to literally become Josie, her own daughter. Mr. Capaldi’s lack of understanding shows how many people in technology—even, or perhaps especially, those with utopian goals—are blinded by a lack of empathy and ethics.
The days before Josie leaves for college are hectic, particularly because the new housekeeper is less orderly than Melania Housekeeper was. At one point, Josie invites Klara to come to her bedroom. Josie says she’s afraid of going away to school, but she doesn’t want to let fear get in the way. She makes a reference to seeing Klara at Christmas, but only if Klara is still there. Klara has noticed several references to her own departure.
Klara has mostly been out of Josie’s bedroom for a while, so the return to Josie’s bedroom (where Josie’s miraculous recovery occurred) suggests a temporary return to the way things used to be. Josie has ignored Klara for a while, but she tries to once again treat Klara as a best friend like she used to.
Josie had hoped Rick would be there to say goodbye, but Rick is miles away with his drones and his new friends. Josie hugs Klara for a long time and then tells her that if she never sees Klara again, Klara was great. Klara thanks Josie for choosing her.
The physical distance separating Josie and Rick at this moment represents the emotional distance that has been forming between them for a long time. The dissolving relationship between Josie and Rick suggests that real life is not a fairy tale, even if it did temporarily seem like one on the morning when Josie was healed.
Klara’s memories begin to blur together, although she believes she can always put the memories back in order whenever she wants to. She is no longer at Josie’s house and now has a special place in a new area called the Yard, where the only tall object she can see is a construction crane in the distance.
It's tempting to wonder whether certain events in the story “really” happened at all, such as whether Josie actually recovered from her disease or whether Klara is recalling events incorrectly because she is near the end of her life and slowly fading. Nevertheless, while there is some evidence that Klara may be an unreliable narrator with her own biases, there isn’t evidence to suggest that she is completely misremembering events or blatantly lying. All in all, it probably makes the most sense to take Klara’s version of events more or less at face value, given that there isn’t a clear reason to do otherwise.
Sometimes visitors come to the Yard and Klara hears human voices, but mostly it’s just yardmen who work there. One of the yardmen offers to move Klara to a spot where there’s three other AFs, but Klara likes her current special spot. Klara can no longer move, although she can turn her head.
Klara’s life in the Yard seems to deliberately evoke the experience of a nursing home, where many residents often live close together but can sometimes have a hard time interacting due to their various ailments.
One day, Klara is surprised to recognize Manager in the yard. Manager is glad to see Klara and says that she has been looking for her in the Yard for a while. Klara says she’s glad to see Manager. Manager asks if Klara was with the same family the whole time, and Klara confirms she was.
The appearance of Manager, who has been absent from the story since Part One, gives the novel a circular structure, perhaps recalling the famous hero’s journey myth structure, where a protagonist returns to where they started, having changed along the way.
Manager says she no longer looks after AFs, but she likes to come to the Yard and other places, both to see former AFs and to collect little souvenirs. Klara asks about Rosa. Manager says she saw Rosa two years ago and learned that things didn’t work out so well for her, but she doesn’t want to say more.
Manager’s response suggests that perhaps AFs aren’t made anymore, perhaps because of the prejudices of people like the woman who got angry at Klara outside the theater or perhaps because of bad situations like what happened with Rosa (the specifics of which are never revealed). The novel asks readers to consider the ethics of AFs without providing an easy answer: whether having Artificial Friends is good for humans and whether it is a good existence for the AFs themselves.
Manager asks about the family Klara went to. Klara says her home was the best home and Josie was the best teenager. She says she would’ve “continued” Josie if necessary but that things turned out for the best, even if Rick and Josie aren’t together.
Klara’s insistence that Josie was the best, even after Josie ignored her at the end, seems to suggest that Klara truly led a happy existence. But this doesn’t answer ethical questions about AFs, since it is difficult to compare Klara’s happy experience to Rosa’s unhappy one. It’s also unclear whether Klara’s happiness is enough to balance out the unhappiness other AFs seem to experience.
Manager asks what “continuing” Josie means. Klara explains how Mr. Capaldi believed there was nothing special inside Josie and that an AF like Klara could have become her. Klara, however, now believes he was wrong and that there was something special—not inside Josie but inside the people who loved her.
Although many parts of the novel are ambiguous, here Klara directly states what is arguably one of the novel’s biggest themes: that what makes a person special is how they are loved by other people. Although this might seem like a hopeful or even sentimental message, it doesn’t negate the darker elements of the story, such as the implication that Klara is in the Yard because her system is worn down and that she will soon be dead.
Manager asks if Klara would like to be moved over to be near some B3s in the Yard. Klara says she’d prefer to be alone to put her memories in order. Manager admits that, despite the B3s’ technical advances, Manager never liked them as much, and customers seemed to feel the same way.
The fact that Manager never liked the more powerful B3 AFs as much suggests that not all technological advances are positive. This implies that technology’s value to humans is never just about sheer power but instead about the less quantifiable ways that it impacts life.
Before Manager goes, Klara says she must let Manager know that there was an incident in Josie’s home where the Sun showed particular kindness. Manager says she’s sure the Sun was always kind to Klara. They say goodbye, and Klara thanks Manager one last time. As Manager walks away, she moves less steadily than she used to in the store. She stops in the mid-distance, and Klara thinks she might turn around, but she just looks up at the crane, then continues to walk away.
The ending is bittersweet: it’s happy because Klara had a good life but sad because Klara’s life is almost over. The manager’s new limp seems to recall the limp that Josie used to have. It perhaps reflects how humans have flaws but find ways to keep moving anyway. The crane, which is another construction vehicle like the Cootings Machine, seems to represent human technology and progress. As Klara’s life comes to an end—and soon after it, potentially the whole era of AFs—Manager looks to the crane, perhaps imagining what humans will create next and what effect it will have on the planet.