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Miss Emily is the head guardian of Hailsham, and we learn at the end of the book that the school is her life’s work. Miss Emily started Hailsham because she believed the clones deserved a humane childhood, and she thought the school would be a place to prove the children’s humanity to the rest of the world. By encouraging the students to focus their efforts on art and creative expression, Miss Emily hoped to convince the world her students were capable of creativity, and therefore humanity. Although Hailsham eventually closes, Miss Emily believes her efforts helped better the lives of the clones at Hailsham as well as outside of it. When the cultural tide turns against the clones’ humanity, Miss Emily worries future leaders will resort to raising them like crops rather than people and that her influence will no longer be able to help.
The students at Hailsham see Miss Emily as a stern but benevolent guardian. As a teacher, Miss Emily is knowledgeable but prone to giving long speeches the students can’t always keep track of. She does not appreciate when they ask questions about the outside world, their possibles, or Madame and her gallery, and the students learn quickly to avoid the subject entirely. Although Miss Emily is a good teacher, the students know better than to make her angry. Kathy learns later that Miss Emily discourages questions because she wants the children to find purpose in their work at Hailsham. Miss Emily believes if they knew how grim and unavoidable their futures are, the students would give up seeking and creating meaning in their lives. She relies on the students’ art to use as proof that the children are human and at least deserve to be treated with dignity before they begin their donations. For a while, this tactic works, but eventually society decides it does not want to face the uncomfortable repercussions if the clones are truly human, so Hailsham loses the resources to continue.
Although Miss Emily grieves that her project did not ultimately work, she tells Kathy and Tommy that she too has had to overcome her revulsion to the clones in order to advocate for them. Despite being their consistent champion, Miss Emily herself fears the uncanny humanity in the creatures she cannot quite see as her equals. She tells them she started Hailsham because it was the right thing to do, not because she believed the students were exactly human. Her goal at Hailsham was not to help the students live on their own terms when they were older, but to give them a nice way to grow up before they would have to give their lives to “real” humans.