Summary: Chapter 7

Kathy’s memories shift to her last years at Hailsham, from roughly age thirteen to age sixteen. She recalls these years being darker and more serious than the ones before, and sees Tommy’s confession at the pond as a marker between the two periods. Miss Lucy continues to behave strangely around the students. One day, Miss Lucy and a group of students take shelter from a rainstorm in the sports pavilion. Miss Lucy hears two boys discussing what it would be like to become actors. Miss Lucy, visibly upset, announces that such talk is inappropriate because their futures are already determined: when Hailsham students reach adulthood, they will fulfill their purpose in life by donating their vital organs. Miss Lucy expresses frustration with the other guardians who refuse to speak directly to the students about their futures.

Kathy explains that the guardians tended to lecture on donations and sex at the same time, and she wonders if they did so to keep the students from focusing on or questioning donations. She also recalls that Miss Emily urged the students to be cautious about having sex in the outside world, where non-students attach more significance to sex because they are capable of having children. Although the younger students avoid discussing donations, Kathy and her classmates begin to joke about them as teenagers. In one running joke, students pretend to “unzip” themselves and hand over their organs. This joke emerges after several boys pull a prank on Tommy, convincing him that a cut on his elbow will “unzip” unless he keeps his arm straight. After Miss Lucy’s speech in the pavilion, the students avoid talking about donations again.

Summary: Chapter 8

During her last summer at Hailsham, Kathy is daydreaming in a quiet hallway when she hears a strange hissing noise. Following the noise to a nearby classroom, she finds Miss Lucy angrily scribbling out a stack of handwritten papers. Kathy apologizes and leaves the room, feeling ashamed and confused. The adult Kathy pauses to note that Tommy also had a strange interaction with Miss Lucy that summer, although he did not tell her about it until years later. Kathy does not describe the interaction, but says that Tommy’s old temper returned around the same time. She recalls showing Tommy a hand-painted Hailsham calendar, which she had just purchased at one of the Exchanges. Instead of praising it, Tommy walked away. At the time, Kathy assumed that his strange moods related to his recent breakup with Ruth, whom he had been dating for six months.

Kathy reflects on the guardians’ contradictory messages about sex. Although the guardians encouraged the students not to be ashamed of sex, they also discouraged students from having sex at school. The students developed many theories about whether or not the guardians actually wanted them to have sex, but Kathy thinks that Ruth’s theory was the most probable. Ruth thought that the guardians wanted to prepare students for sex in the outside world, but did not want to deal with them having sex at school. Kathy recalls feeling left out at Hailsham because many of her friends claimed to be having sex. While she doubts many of these claims were true, she does know that Ruth had sex with Tommy. Kathy says that she also wanted to have sex, as a way of practicing for the future. She spent several weeks preparing to ask her classmate Harry C., but Ruth and Tommy’s breakup changed her mind.

Summary: Chapter 9

Kathy explains why she postponed her plan to have sex with Harry C. Soon after Tommy and Ruth’s breakup, Kathy's friends began to hint that she was Ruth’s “natural successor” to be Tommy’s girlfriend. Kathy adds that she saw Harry at a recovery center a few years ago. He had just given a donation, and she isn’t sure that he recognized her. She returns her focus to Hailsham, where Ruth soon asks her for help in getting back together with Tommy. Ruth says that Tommy respects Kathy and will listen to her advice. Kathy worries that Ruth will hurt Tommy again, but Ruth claims to be done playing games. Ruth points out that they are adults now, and will soon leave Hailsham. Kathy agrees to meet with Tommy.

Tommy tells Kathy that he is not upset about the breakup, but about a recent conversation with Miss Lucy. Earlier in the summer, Miss Lucy admitted she had made a mistake in telling him that it was okay to be uncreative. She said that Madame’s Gallery was more important than she had first realized, and alluded to the students' artwork as “evidence.” Miss Lucy urged Tommy to begin making art again. Kathy is intrigued, but focuses on encouraging Tommy to get back together with Ruth. Tommy says that he cannot rush back into the relationship, especially since they will be leaving Hailsham soon. The next day, the students hear that Miss Lucy has left Hailsham for good. Tommy and Ruth get back together that evening.


Kathy’s last years at Hailsham are filled with foreboding signs, and Miss Lucy’s odd behavior contributes heavily to the ominous atmosphere. Miss Lucy’s speech in the sports pavilion reflects her ongoing struggle with her role as a guardian. Her speech also provides the students with an unusually straightforward account of the donation program, something that Kathy as a narrator has not provided her reader until now. In this way, Kathy makes the reader’s experience mirror her own: the novel’s first explicit description of the future occurs when young Kathy hears it from Miss Lucy. Miss Lucy delivers her ominous message of adulthood in the sports pavilion, which was once a private hideaway for Kathy and her friends. No longer a sanctuary associated with girlhood, the pavilion is now the place where Kathy must directly confront the future. Miss Lucy cuts off all chatter about dream careers, as the rainstorm outside mirrors the bleak message that she delivers. Just as quickly, however, the students manage to push this knowledge away, focusing on Miss Lucy’s oddity instead.

Read more about the relentless passage of time and the inevitability of loss as a theme.

As the students prepare to leave Hailsham, donations and sexual relationships become parallel markers of their transition to adulthood. Like donations, sex also differentiates the students, who cannot bear children, from people in the outside world. Miss Emily reinforces the association between donations and sex in her lectures, which often combine the two subjects. But her frankness about sex contrasts with the guardians’ continued delicateness on the subject of donations. The students mirror this, openly discussing sex and relationships while generally avoiding talk of the donations that will shape their adult lives. Kathy’s memories of Harry C. continue to highlight this tension. While Harry the student is Kathy’s intended choice for a first sexual partner, Harry the donor is almost a stranger. Her memory of seeing Harry at a recovery center highlights the divide between their Hailsham childhood and their adult lives. Harry’s apparent failure to recognize her also emphasizes Kathy’s lonely position as a guardian of Hailsham memories.

As a narrator, Kathy replicates the guardians’ narrative strategy of “telling and not telling.” She is highly indirect about her own feelings, especially when it comes to her interest in Tommy. The first time that she mentions Tommy’s relationship with Ruth is in the context of their breakup. Her brief reference to the breakup itself is almost an afterthought, introduced as a potential reason for Tommy’s moodiness. While it is possible that Kathy does not recall any anecdotes from Tommy and Ruth’s six-month relationship, the complete omission suggests that she has likely chosen to skip over it. Kathy describes her response to the breakup in equally indirect terms, never directly stating that she is interested in a relationship with Tommy. Instead, she signals this interest implicitly via her actions. When her friends suggest that she will take Ruth's place, Kathy stops pursuing Harry C. Kathy's account of her memories shows that she is still hesitant to share her feelings about Tommy, even as an adult. It also reflects her ongoing unreliability as a narrator.

Read more about Kathy’s complicated role as narrator.

The end of Kathy’s last summer at Hailsham is also an end to her childhood. Her quiet reverie by the window captures the calm before the tumult of her transition away from Hailsham. Just as Miss Lucy interrupted the boys who spoke about becoming actors in the sports pavilion, she also interrupts Kathy’s daydream with the ominous “hissing” of her pencil. Kathy’s investigation of the hissing noise leads only to shame and confusion. The scene reflects Miss Lucy’s ongoing struggle with her role, and her angry scribbling is a destructive counterpart to the students’ artistic creations. Noticeably, she does not speak to Kathy. Miss Lucy remains confusingly unreadable, much like the scribbled-out papers before her. Foreboding and ambiguous, the papers echo Kathy’s own sense of the future. Tommy’s parallel encounter with Miss Lucy also leaves him confused and disturbed. But while Kathy internalizes her sense of unease, Tommy expresses his anxiety by releasing his temper once again. Like the rainstorm and Miss Lucy’s scribbling, the return of Tommy’s temper is an ominous sign for the future.

Read more about Tommy and his temper.

Miss Lucy’s abrupt departure heightens the students' sense of uncertainty and foreboding about the future. It also removes Tommy and Kathy’s best chance at solving the mysteries surrounding creativity at Hailsham. Her ominous reference to artwork as “evidence” parallels Tommy and Kathy’s own interest in evidence to support their theories, but does not bring them any closer to answers. For the students, Miss Lucy’s departure is also an abrupt and disorienting experience of loss. Tommy’s decision to reunite with Ruth that evening recalls the refrain of the song “Never Let Me Go.” He responds to the loss of Miss Lucy and to the imminent loss of Hailsham by holding onto his relationship with Ruth. In the face of an uncertain future away from the school and their guardians, the students must turn to one another for stability.

Read more about the symbolism behind the song “Never Let Me Go.”