What are donations?

The students in Never Let Me Go are clones created to supply vital organs for people whose health is failing. “Donations” refer to the operations where the organs are harvested from these clones for use elsewhere. Donors are alive when this process happens, and they can give anywhere between one and four organs before they “complete” and are no longer conscious between donations. The text is vague about what happens after donors complete, but it implies they are held in stasis until they no longer have organs left to use, at which point they are discarded.

What are possibles?

Because the students are clones, they each have someone in the world who they were cloned from. When the students encounter someone who looks like themselves or another student, they speculate whether that person could have been who they were modeled from. These potential models are called “possibles” because the students have no way of knowing for sure. Possibles allow the students to dream about what their lives might have been like in the regular world. In fact, they have a superstition of sorts wherein their possibles reveal inherent qualities about themselves and who they would have been if they were raised normally.

Why did Miss Lucy leave Hailsham?

Miss Lucy believes the students should have the full picture of who they are as organ donors and why they exist. She feels it is more respectful to the students to send them into the world with a full understanding of their future fates. The leaders of Hailsham, like Miss Emily, feel this is too idealistic a view. Miss Emily’s belief is that the students will feel hopeless if they know their true purpose and will not be able to invest in the richness of their lives at Hailsham. Miss Lucy leaves because she continues to express her views, both to the staff and to the students, and Miss Emily believes her comments could disrupt the fragile peace of Hailsham.

What was Ruth’s dream for the future?

Kathy and Ruth see an advertisement for a modern, open-plan office job while on a walk, and Ruth adopts that vision as her dream hypothetical future. The students take time to think what their lives could have looked like if they did not have to become donors, and Ruth describes working in an office just like the picture in the advertisement. When she sees her plausible possible in essentially that exact scenario, it reinforces that dream for Ruth even though she knows it is something she cannot have. She believes her possible’s life is a genuine reflection of her own value and ability. However, when it is revealed that the woman is not Ruth’s possible after all, Ruth’s dream for her own future is crushed.

Why does Madame cry?

When Madame sees Kathy dancing to the song “Never Let Me Go” and clutching a pillow to her chest, Kathy catches her crying. Kathy knows Madame is afraid of the students in the same way people are afraid of spiders, so she is confused why Madame would be so moved. Kathy suspects Madame cried because she could understand Kathy was acting out a maternal instinct even though she could not bear children. Years later, Madame tells Kathy that she envisioned a little girl clutching a kind world to her chest as the future became crueler. Although Madame does not feel comfortable with the students, she dedicates her life’s work to making their lives more humane.