Summary: Chapter 22

Miss Emily greets Tommy and Kathy, whom she remembers from Hailsham. She says that she only has a short time to talk because she is expecting movers to come for a bedside cabinet that she is selling. Miss Emily is unwell, but hopes that she will not need her wheelchair for long. She says that Madame, who she refers to as Marie-Claude, feels disillusioned about the way their Hailsham project ended. However, Miss Emily feels proud of what they accomplished. She is familiar with the rumor about deferrals, but confirms that deferrals have never existed. Miss Emily explains that Hailsham was part of a small progressive movement dedicated to making the donation program more humane. Many people preferred to see the students as less than human, because this made it easier to justify using their organs. While most clones grew up in terrible conditions, Hailsham offered a benevolent alternative. Miss Emily and Madame showed the students’ artwork at special exhibitions to prove to the public that clones had souls.

Miss Emily explains that although Hailsham had many supporters in the seventies, public opinion eventually turned against them. One contributing factor was the Morningdale scandal, named for a controversial scientist who wanted to produce genetically enhanced children. Hailsham closed after losing all its sponsors, and large government “homes” became the only option for raising students. Miss Emily and Madame still have a pile of student artwork upstairs, along with their memories of Hailsham. Miss Emily encourages Kathy and Tommy to consider themselves lucky, given the benefits they received growing up at Hailsham. Tommy asks about Miss Lucy’s departure from Hailsham. Miss Emily explains that while most guardians wished to shelter the students, Miss Lucy wanted to make the students more aware of their futures.

Kathy tells Miss Emily that Madame has always been afraid of the students. Miss Emily admits that she also felt revulsion towards them, but fought successfully against those feelings. Miss Emily excuses herself to speak with the movers. Kathy and Tommy prepare to leave, but Kathy pauses on the way out to ask Madame about their encounter years ago in the Hailsham dormitory. Kathy wonders aloud if Madame understood the story that she imagined for the song “Never Let Me Go.” Madame says actually cried because she was thinking about the approach of a harsh new world. In Kathy, she saw a little girl holding onto the old world and pleading for it never to let her go. On the drive home, Tommy says that he thinks Miss Lucy was right in wanting to be honest with the students. He asks Kathy to pull over, and walks off into the woods. Kathy suddenly hears him screaming. She finds him raging in a muddy field, and holds him until he calms down and holds her back. They return to the car, where Kathy wonders aloud if Tommy threw tantrums as a child because on some level he always knew something the rest of them did not.

Summary: Chapter 23

After the visit to Madame, Tommy stops drawing his animals in front of Kathy. He often shifts their topic of conversation from Hailsham to his donor friends. He also says that Kathy will not understand certain things because she is not a donor, which Kathy resents. When the notice for his fourth donation comes, Tommy tells Kathy that he wants a different carer. He points out that Ruth wanted “the other thing” for them, and would not have wanted Kathy to be his carer at the end. Kathy is angry at first, but acquiesces. Kathy and Tommy spend a last few weeks together. On Kathy’s last day as his carer, they talk about Ruth. Tommy says that while he and Kathy always wished “to find things out,” Ruth always wished “to believe in things.”

Tommy also says that his relationship with Kathy reminds him of two people trying to hold onto one another in a river, who eventually have to let go. He says that although they have loved each other their whole lives, they cannot stay together forever. Tommy and Kathy share a goodbye kiss, and then Kathy drives away. Looking back, Kathy insists that she will not lose her memories although she has lost everyone she loves. She says that she drove back to Norfolk shortly after Tommy completed. Standing before a barbed wire fence, she looked out at a field and imagined Tommy appearing on the horizon. However, she stopped the fantasy just as Tommy waved at her from the horizon. Kathy says that although she cried, her crying was not out of control. She got back in the car and drove away.


In Madame’s house, Tommy and Kathy find the answers that they have been seeking since childhood. But like the search for Ruth’s possible, this search also ends in disappointment as Miss Emily once and for all dismisses the possibility of a deferral. In answering their questions, Miss Emily also displays a somewhat patronizing and self-satisfied attitude. She absolves herself of responsibility for the students, justifying her present complacency by citing the unfavorable state of public opinion. She also exposes the hypocritical nature of her own charity. While they dedicated Hailsham to improving the lives of the students, Miss Emily and Madame could not help feeling revulsion towards them. Although Miss Emily and Madame attempted to show the clones’ humanity to the outside world, they themselves struggled to believe what they preached. Meanwhile, Kathy’s own narrative is a far more compelling testament to her humanity. When Miss Emily is explicit about her feelings of revulsion, she reveals another facet of the ‘pretending’ that was fundamental to life at Hailsham. Not only did the guardians cover up details about the donations program, they also sought to hide their own aversion to the students. Hailsham thus lives up to its name, exposed as a sham maintained through elaborate acts of deception.

Read more about the dignity of human life as a theme.

Yet Miss Emily also confirms that acts of deception were a central source of tension among the guardians at Hailsham. Her disagreement with Miss Lucy reflects more universal questions about whether and how long to protect the innocence of childhood. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth echo this divide in their own attitudes towards discovering the truth. While Ruth’s desire “to believe in things” made the nurturing Miss Geraldine her natural favorite at Hailsham, Tommy and Kathy’s desire “to find things out” drew them to Miss Lucy. Accordingly, Ruth dies still believing in the possibility of a deferral while Tommy and Kathy discover the truth. Although Madame does have a “gallery” of student artwork stored upstairs, this gallery turns out only to be a shrine to the memory of Hailsham. Much like Kathy herself, Madame and Miss Emily have held onto Hailsham only through objects and the memories that they associate with it. Madame herself exhibits a more emotional and conflicted response to Kathy and Tommy than Miss Emily does. Her tearfulness echoes the way she cried in Kathy’s doorway at Hailsham, and her explanation of that episode shows that she too is experiencing a deep sense of loss. Madame mourns for the loss of a kinder and gentler past that was let go in the name of a harsh new future.

Read more about how loss functions as a theme.

Tommy’s wild raging echoes his temper tantrum on the muddy Hailsham football field at the start of the novel. Likewise, Kathy’s attempt to calm and comfort him echoes her response to his childhood tantrum. Her characteristic restraint again contrasts with Tommy’s outpouring of emotion. Where Kathy keeps her emotions in check, his screams reflect the emotional devastation of them both. This time, however, Kathy and Tommy embrace. Their response to the inevitability of losing one another is to hold on tightly, expressing the plea embedded in the song title “Never Let Me Go.” Yet in the days after their visit to Madame, Tommy begins a process of letting go. Kathy no longer sees him drawing, which shows that he has let go of the hopefulness and possibility that his animals represented. He seems to let go of Hailsham, speaking more of his donor friends than of his childhood memories. And he at last lets go of Kathy, asking her to find him another carer before he gives his last donation. In comparing himself and Kathy to two people who must let go of one another in a river, he affirms that the pain of letting go is an inevitable consequence of loving and being loved.

Read more about the importance of the song “Never Let Me Go.”

Kathy displays characteristic restraint in reference to Tommy’s death, mentioning it only after the fact when she describes her last trip to Norfolk. She holds her emotions in check, suppressing her grief with understated description. Kathy’s visit to the Norfolk field is a final echo of her first trip to Norfolk with Ruth, Tommy, Chrissie, and Rodney. Her solitary return to the “lost corner” of England is a symbolic gesture, expressing Kathy’s desire to recover all that she has lost. Kathy allows herself to engage in one last fantasy, as she imagines Tommy coming over the horizon. However, this last fantasy is also a limited one, as she does not let herself imagine a reunion with Tommy, imagining him only from a distance. In calling it an indulgence, Kathy also shows that her fantasy is without any sense of hopeful possibility. After losing everyone she loves, Kathy is resigned to becoming a donor herself. Kathy’s memories are the only thing she has left to hold onto, and she continues to refuse to let them go. Her last action in the novel is both characteristic and tragic—she drives away, leaving behind Norfolk and the fantasy of recovering those she has lost.

Read more about Kathy’s emotional state and its impact in her narration.