Never Let Me Go

by: Kazuo Ishiguro

Part Three, Chapters 20-21

Summary Part Three, Chapters 20-21

Summary: Chapter 20

Almost a year after their visit to the boat, Kathy becomes Tommy’s carer. Tommy has just given his third donation and is recovering at the Kingsfield center, where he and Kathy spend relaxing afternoons reading and talking. Eventually, they also begin to have sex. They are happy together, but cannot avoid feeling that they waited until it was too late. After becoming Tommy’s carer, Kathy also sees him drawing more imaginary animals. Tommy does not hide his drawings from Kathy, and even asks for her opinion on them. Kathy feels relieved and happy, recognizing that Tommy has moved past the tension that arose about his drawings at the Cottages. Kathy sees the animals as a sign that Tommy is still preparing to apply for a deferral. But she also thinks that his drawings look more labored, almost as if he copied them. She senses again that they are doing everything too late. As summer ends, they expect to receive notice for Tommy’s fourth donation. Kathy tells Tommy that she has visited the address Ruth provided, and watched Madame enter the house there. Tommy and Kathy decide to visit Madame the following week. Tommy wonders where they might go, if granted a deferral. He says that they will have to select carefully from among his animal drawings.

Summary: Chapter 21

Kathy and Tommy visit Madame’s house. They arrive in the evening, after a long day of medical tests that leave Tommy feeling carsick. Kathy parks the car in town, where they spot Madame walking down the street. Kathy and Tommy follow Madame, walking slightly behind her. This reminds Kathy of following Ruth’s possible in Norfolk. When Madame reaches her front door, Kathy calls to her from the gate. Madame’s demeanor is cold and severe, but she gives a small smile when Kathy says that they are from Hailsham. Tommy says that they have brought some things for her gallery, and wish to speak with her. Madame invites them inside, and asks them to wait in a front room while she goes upstairs. As they wait, Tommy points out a framed picture of what he thinks is Hailsham hanging in the corner of the room. They hear Madame speaking with a man upstairs.

When Madame returns, Kathy says that they have come to ask about deferrals. Kathy explains that she and Tommy are in love, and Tommy says they think they know the purpose of Madame’s gallery. Madame wants to know what he thinks, but looks at Kathy and asks, oddly, if she is “going too far.” Tommy begins to explain his theory, and Madame realizes that they believe she looks at their artwork to see their souls. She then turns to Kathy, asking again whether she goes too far. Tommy admits that he did not get any art into Madame’s gallery at Hailsham, and offers to show his drawings to her. Madame calls them “poor creatures,” and Kathy thinks there are tears in her eyes. Madame again turns to Kathy and asks if she wishes to continue. This time, Kathy realizes that Madame is actually talking to someone in the next room. Suddenly, Miss Emily enters in a wheelchair. Madame tells Miss Emily to speak to them.

Analysis

The Kingsfield recovery center is a large communal living space, echoing both Hailsham and the Cottages in its lack of privacy. However, Tommy’s room is a small private refuge. Kathy and Tommy find happiness together in this room, where they become physically intimate for the first time. Tommy’s room is also a place of hopefulness, as it is here that they quietly make plans to apply for a deferral. However, their happiness is mitigated by a sense of lost time. Like the Cottages, the recovery center is essentially a temporary place of waiting. Tommy and Kathy begin their relationship in the limited period of time between donations. The deferral again represents the possibility of more time, but with far more urgency than it did at the Cottages. With his fourth donation on the horizon, Tommy has almost run out of time. Kathy shows her doubtful sense of the future in the way that she reacts to Tommy’s drawings, which she does not find as compelling or original as she once did.

The visit to Madame is yet another echo of Norfolk. Kathy herself recognizes the parallel when she and Tommy follow Madame down the street, recalling the way they followed Ruth’s possible in Norfolk. This shows that Kathy and Tommy are still engaged in a version of that initial hopeful search. Just as Ruth, Chrissie, and Rodney did in Norfolk, Tommy and Kathy seek the possibility of more time as well as the possibility of learning about who they are. The visit to Madame also recalls their visit to the boat, when Ruth presented them with Madame’s address. In the way that Chrissie and Rodney were noticeably missing on that trip, Ruth is noticeably absent from the visit to Madame. Each echo of the Norfolk trip highlights another loss, as well as the shrinking hopes of those who remain. Of the five students who visited Norfolk, only Kathy and Tommy are left to pursue hopes of a deferral. Their opportunity depends entirely on Ruth, whose gift of Madame’s address makes the visit possible at all.

Echoing the way that Ruth’s possible led the students to an art gallery, Kathy and Tommy hope that Madame will lead them to her legendary gallery. Significantly, the artwork that they notice in her house is a picture of Hailsham. This suggests that Hailsham remains important to Madame’s own memory. It also emphasizes the ghostliness of Hailsham, which now exists only in memories and images. Ironically, this copy of Hailsham is now one of the only ways to revisit the school. Madame’s house also replicates the mysterious aspects of Hailsham. Madame herself does not provide answers. Allowing Tommy and Kathy to do the explaining, she spends much of the conversation asking her own questions. Her cryptic speech hides more than it reveals, much as the house itself hides other occupants. Miss Emily’s surveillance, meanwhile, echoes the kind of surveillance practiced at Hailsham. Just as the Hailsham guardians watched the students closely while hiding information from them, Miss Emily observes Tommy and Kathy while hidden behind closed doors. Her entrance suggests that at last the answers to Tommy and Kathy’s questions may also come into the open.