Never Let Me Go

by: Kazuo Ishiguro

Part 1, Chapters 3-4

Summary Part 1, Chapters 3-4

Summary: Chapter 3

Kathy meets Tommy at the pond, but feels uneasy about being visible from the main house. Tommy explains that about two months prior, he helped Miss Lucy to carry some materials back to her study. When they were alone, Miss Lucy told him that he was not to blame for his lack of creativity. She also told him that it was wrong for the guardians or other students to pressure him about being creative. Miss Lucy shook with anger while she spoke, but her anger did not seem to be directed at Tommy. Tommy says the talk helped him to adjust his behavior, but makes Kathy promise not to tell anyone about it. He adds that Miss Lucy told him she believes the students are not “taught enough” about donations. Kathy and Tommy speculate that donations and creativity may be connected. Kathy thinks that such a connection might help explain Madame’s Gallery.

Kathy pauses this memory to describe Madame, a woman who occasionally visited Hailsham to take away the best student artwork. Students believed that she put the art in a personal gallery, although they had no proof that “Madame’s Gallery” existed. They also considered it taboo to mention Madame’s Gallery in front of the guardians, who never addressed the subject. Madame herself was aloof and distant from the students on her visits. When Ruth and Kathy were around eight years old, Ruth proposed a theory that Madame was afraid of the students. They tested this theory with their friends by walking in a group past Madame on one of her visits. Madame froze and seemed to suppress a shudder, confirming Ruth’s theory. This encounter made Kathy realize that some people on the “outside” of Hailsham dreaded contact with students like her.

Summary: Chapter 4

As Kathy prepares to stop being a carer, she feels an increasing urge to make sense of her memories. She believes that her memories of Hailsham will help to clarify what happened between her, Tommy, and Ruth after they left school. Kathy recalls the “tokens controversy” caused by Madame’s visits. She explains that students who submitted art to the Exchanges received tokens with which to “purchase” other students’ work. In this way, the Exchanges allowed students to build up collections of personal items. When Kathy was about ten years old, she and her classmates protested not receiving similar “compensation” when Madame took their artwork. During the tokens controversy, one of the students asked Miss Lucy why Madame wanted their art in the first place. Miss Lucy refused to explain, saying only that the students would not understand.

Kathy also describes the monthly Sales, where students used their tokens to purchase toys, clothes, and other objects brought in from the “outside.” The stern head guardian, Miss Emily, often lectured the students about their rowdiness on Sale days. Kathy recalls Miss Emily’s odd speeches, and remembers how her sharp intellect at times seemed to give way to a dreamy daze. Kathy also shares her earliest memories of Ruth. When Kathy was five or six, she saw Ruth angrily confront two girls playing in a sandpit. A couple of years later, Ruth invited Kathy to join her in riding imaginary horses. Kathy enjoyed the game until Ruth became inexplicably cross with her. Suddenly, Ruth asked Kathy if Miss Geraldine was her favorite guardian. When Kathy said yes, Ruth invited her to be one of Miss Geraldine’s “secret guards.”

Analysis

Tommy’s conversation with Miss Lucy shows that secrecy is fundamental to life at Hailsham. In one sense, the adults at Hailsham are “guardians” because they safeguard the wellbeing of the students. In another sense, they also act as “guardians” of knowledge. Although they are the teachers at Hailsham, the guardians ironically refuse to educate the students fully about topics like donations. The students themselves help to maintain this secrecy, shying away from taboo subjects like Madame’s Gallery in front of the guardians. However, the students also generate their own forms of “knowledge” through rumor and speculation. They develop theories to help explain what the guardians will not discuss, although they can only test these theories indirectly. Kathy and her friends infer Madame’s fear by silently reading her facial expressions, not by asking questions or speaking with her directly. Yet even this indirect test shocks and distresses the girls. Madame’s fear interrupts the tranquility of their childhood at Hailsham. It also shows how much this sense of this tranquility depends on the guardians, who shield the students from a full understanding of their role in the outside world.

Miss Lucy’s conversation with Tommy shows that she is ambivalent about her role as a guardian of information, Unlike the other adults at Hailsham, she believes that the guardians should teach the students more fully about donations. Ironically, her ambiguous talk with Tommy raises more questions than it answers. While she reassures Tommy about his lack of creativity, she also inadvertently encourages Tommy and Kathy to speculate about creativity’s connection to donations. In their conversation by the pond, Tommy and Kathy bond over their shared curiosity about Madame’s Gallery. They show a mutual desire to understand the mysterious role of creativity at Hailsham. When Tommy asks Kathy not to tell anyone about their conversation, he also replicates the secrecy that characterizes life at Hailsham more broadly.