Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kathy immediately feels guilty about hurting Ruth’s feelings and exposing her lie. In the weeks following this incident, then, she does everything she can to make Ruth feel that Miss Geraldine does in fact treat her specially. Kathy makes comments around the other girls indicating that Ruth is Geraldine’s favorite, and also lets Ruth goes first into a doorway, in order to allow Ruth to walk alongside Geraldine for a time. One day, in art class with Mr. Rogers, Kathy even hints to another student, Midge, that the pencil case did in fact come from a secret source—a guardian—and that she, Kathy, cannot divulge that information to Midge. Ruth appreciates all of Kathy’s efforts, and the two become closer friends.
Kathy’s guilt, and her desire to make up for the hurt she has caused Ruth, lead her to initiate a series of subtle actions designed to make Ruth appear special. Kathy is particularly gifted at reading small changes in the emotional states of other people. This ability allows Kathy to become a highly qualified, indeed an exceptional carer. Unsurprisingly, Ruth is far less adept as a carer—as she later tells Kathy and Tommy—likely because Ruth is self-focused and has a harder time understanding her classmates and fellow clones.
Themes
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Individual Goals vs. Social Expectations Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
Kathy notes that Ruth had a chance to repay these kindnesses, when Ruth attempts to find Kathy’s “lost tape.” But before explaining this, Kathy describes to the reader how the students thought of Norfolk, a region in the southeast of England. During geography lessons, Miss Emily once described Norfolk to the assembled students as “something of a lost corner of England.” Although Miss Emily meant that Norfolk was not easily accessible by highway, and was therefore somewhat separate from the other counties, the students, including Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, took this to mean that Norfolk was in fact a place in England where all lost items migrated and were stored.
Another notable feature of some of the Hailsham students—most notably Kathy and Tommy—is their ability to create fully-realized fantasies regarding the world around them. Sometimes these fantasies lead to disappointment—for example, when many students come to believe that a “couples’ deferral” is possible. But other fantasies, like the one concerning Norfolk and the “lost corner,” makes their lives richer and more rewarding. The shared fantasy of the “lost corner” also helps to bring Kathy and Tommy closer together as friends.
Themes
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Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
Kathy wonders, now, while telling this story whether they really believed in this “lost and found” quality of Norfolk, or whether it was pretend even then. Kathy concludes, after talking to Ruth and Tommy as their carers, that they did in fact believe in Norfolk, but only “for a time,” and that later, when they went there as adolescents, they in fact knew that Norfolk had only a symbolic, and not a literal, value for them as a special place.
Kathy also notes that these fantasies are complex: the Hailsham students are not deluding themselves completely. As in other parts of the novel, the students at Hailsham appear to sense that their lives are tightly circumscribed, if not exactly the reason why. But in order to make these lives liveable and human, they engage in a series of shared stories about the world—stories that sustain their friendships even as they begin work as carers and donors.
Themes
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Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
But Kathy notes that she has gone off on a tangent, and describes her lost tape. The tape is called Songs After Dark and was put out by a singer named Judy Bridgewater, released first in 1956, although Kathy had a “cassette version.” Kathy bought the tape at a sale, and found it to be of special value not only because she liked the music and the cover art—which displayed Judy Bridgewater in a dress—but because Bridgewater was smoking in the picture, and smoking was expressly banned at Hailsham. Kathy goes off on another tangent, noting that the rule against smoking was a hard-and-fast one. Miss Lucy, one day explaining the rule to the students (Kathy was around 11 years old), tried to explain that Hailsham students were “different” from the rest of the population, and that smoking would harm their bodies and make their jobs more difficult. But no students prodded Lucy to explain further, and Kathy notes that the issue was dropped at this vague explanation.
An immensely important sequence in the novel, First, Kathy introduces the Judy Bridgewater tape, which will become an important object for her—both in her “accidental” meeting with Madame, who sees Kathy dancing to the tape, and in her friendship with Tommy. Kathy also identifies just how important student health was for the guardians at Hailsham. Although, as young people, Hailsham students were strongly encouraged to be healthy, this rule becomes perhaps the number one requirement of all students as they reach their teenage years. This is because, as teens, Hailsham students encounter more and more potentially dangerous activities—like adult relationships, smoking, and drinking, and their society's primary concern about them is that they be healthy enough to donate helpful organs later in life.
Themes
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Individual Goals vs. Social Expectations Theme Icon
Losing and Finding Theme Icon
Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
Loving, Caring, and Donation Theme Icon
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Kathy returns to describing the tape, and one song in particular that she loved on it, called “Never Let Me Go.” Kathy imagines this song to be about “a woman who cannot have babies,” but who does miraculously manage to have one. The song, Kathy believes, is a love letter to this young baby, and Kathy used to mime holding a child to her chest while singing it to herself, taking great comfort in its music and lyrics.
Another important idea regarding the tape. Although Kathy understands, later, what the song’s lyrics actually refer to, she also identifies just how important this idea of a mother and daughter was to her younger self. Kathy’s desire to nurture and care for those around her—as a mother cares for a child—runs throughout her adult life, and again connects her to the normal human impulses the fulfillment of which are denied to her.
Themes
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Life, Death, and Humanity Theme Icon
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One day, Kathy notes, she was doing exactly 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 dance with tears in her eyes. Kathy didn’t understand why Madame didn’t discipline her—instead, Madame simply walked away, sobbing to herself.
A scene of great importance in the novel. Already poignant during her Hailsham days, this encounter will become doubly important when Madame and Kathy speak years later. For Kathy will realize the extent to which Madame did sympathize with the Hailsham students—even as Madame appeared terrified of actually talking to those students.
Themes
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Years later, when they were adolescents, Kathy told Tommy, and only Tommy, this story, and said at the time that she 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 Madame would have no way of knowing that Kathy was dancing with a little invisible child, instead of interpreting the song the way it ought to have been—as a love letter between a woman and a lover who has left her. Tommy responds only that “Madame can read minds,” and the two laugh at the incident as teens, even though they are “unsettled” by it.
The first acknowledgment in the novel that the students at Hailsham are biologically different from those outside the school, and from those who care for them (the guardians). Ishiguro is incredibly deft at placing small details of the clones’ biological reality in the novel, while also leaving large portions of the “science” of cloning unexplained, in the background of the novel. The reader never learns, for example, just why the clones are inevitably infertile, and how exactly the clones are produced from their “originals.”
Themes
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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 this disappearance had to do with Madame’s sadness, or perhaps with the cover depicting a cigarette. In any event, Kathy came to believe, after several weeks, that the tape was gone forever. One day, Ruth came up to her, saying she had also looked high and low for the tape and couldn’t find it, but that she had found a replacement tape at a sale, one Kathy might like, although Ruth knew very little about different types of music. The tape was called Twenty Classic Dance Tunes, and although it sounded “nothing like” the Bridgewater tape, Kathy tells the reader that she still owns it, and that it’s “one of her most precious possessions.”
An indication of the extent to which student activities at the school are monitored. Kathy has no idea whether the disappearance of the tape is really an accident, the result of student theft, or, most likely, a product of the guardians’ scrutiny. Perhaps the image of Bridgewater smoking on the cover of the tape is enough to sway the guardians and cause them to take it away. But the emotional content of the tape—the idea that the tape can be an object of such care and devotion, on Kathy’s part—might also give the guardians reason to fear. The guardians might not want Kathy to get her hopes up—that a world of parental and romantic love is in store for her, when in fact Kathy will have no children and will never be allowed to marry.
Themes
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Losing and Finding Theme Icon
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