Never Let Me Go

Summary

Part Three, Chapters 22-23

Summary Part Three, Chapters 22-23

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.

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.

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.