Summary: Chapter 12

Chrissie and Rodney, a veteran couple, visit Norfolk at the end of winter. They return claiming that Rodney saw Ruth’s “possible” in the window of an open-plan office. Kathy pauses the story to explain the “possibles theory” that circulated among students. Since they are clones, the students assume that each of them has a model living in the outside world. A “possible” is someone who looks like a possible model for one of the students. Some students think their models must be older than them, around the age of normal parents, while others think the models can be any age. Many believe that seeing their models will tell them something about who they are or offer a glimpse into their future. Kathy notes that possible sightings tend to come in waves, and are not usually substantive.

Although Chrissie is kind and welcoming, her many questions about Hailsham make Kathy suspect that she has a hidden motive. Rodney is also friendly, but generally follows Chrissie’s lead. Kathy doubts his story about seeing the possible in Norfolk, especially since the possible is living Ruth’s “dream future.” Earlier in the winter, Kathy and Ruth saw a magazine on the ground while walking to a nearby village. The magazine lay open to an advertisement featuring an open-plan office. A few days later, Ruth began to talk about her dream future of working in an open-plan office. The veterans listened eagerly, but Kathy realized that Ruth was describing the office from the magazine. For days, Chrissie kept encouraging Ruth to talk about the office. Kathy explains that the veterans thought Hailsham students had access to special opportunities, and believed it possible that Ruth might work in an office one day. Chrissie and Rodney invite Ruth on a trip to Norfolk to search for her possible. Kathy and Tommy decide to come too, which does not seem to please Ruth.

Summary: Chapter 13

Rodney arranges to borrow a car for the Norfolk trip, but his plans fall through just before they are supposed to leave. Ruth becomes visibly upset, although she has, up until now, treated the trip like a joke. Rodney secures another car and the trip proceeds as planned. On the way to Norfolk, Ruth sits between Kathy and Tommy in the back seat. She spends most of the drive leaning forward to speak with Rodney and Chrissie, which prevents Kathy and Tommy from talking to one another. Kathy suggests that she and Ruth switch seats, but Ruth angrily accuses her of trying to make trouble. Ruth sulks in silence for the rest of the drive. The mood lightens when they arrive in Norfolk and go to a local café for lunch.

Kathy expects to discuss Ruth’s “possible” over lunch. Instead, Rodney and Chrissy suggest visiting their friend Martin, a carer who lives in Norfolk. Kathy points out that they are not supposed to visit carers, provoking a sarcastic comment from Ruth. Tommy asks about Ruth’s possible, but Rodney seems reluctant to discuss the subject. Chrissie says that one day Ruth herself may work in a Norfolk office, then shares a rumor about a former Hailsham student who supposedly got a job in a clothes shop. She adds that that Ruth told her about another Hailsham student working as a park ranger. Tommy expresses confusion and denies ever hearing these rumors, but Kathy pretends to know about the student. Chrissie brings up a rumor that Hailsham couples in love can apply to defer their donations for a few years, and asks how to apply. Ruth claims to know about deferrals but not to know about the application process. Tommy tells them that he does not know what they are talking about. Ruth tries to explain Tommy’s cluelessness by saying that he was left out at Hailsham, and then says that she wants to go see her possible.


When Ruth describes her “dream future” of working in an open-plan office, she provokes characteristic reactions from both Kathy and the veterans. Kathy is once again a careful observer, recognizing that Ruth is describing the office in the magazine ad. For Kathy, Ruth’s dream future is yet another sign that the students are living in imitation of the outside world. Just as the veterans copy their gestures from television shows, Ruth copies her dream future from an advertisement—which is itself only a staged copy of real life. These acts of copying also reinforce the students’ own status as copies, cloned from human models in the outside world. Contrasting with Kathy, the veterans indulge in the fantasy of Ruth’s dream future. The veterans’ reaction reflects their belief that Hailsham is exceptional, and their sense of possibility about the futures available to Hailsham students. It also plays into Ruth’s ongoing desire for special status among her peers, which she first showed at Hailsham with her hints that Miss Geraldine favored her. The sense of possibility at the Cottages does not correspond with Kathy’s own memory of Hailsham, where Miss Lucy refused to let the students fantasize about alternate careers.

Read more about the open-office plan as a symbol.

The trip to Norfolk relies on this sense of hopeful possibility, as Ruth’s aptly named “possible” indicates. Norfolk itself has long represented possibility for the Hailsham students, who once believed in the possibility of recovering their lost possessions there. Rodney’s story about the woman in the office revives this childhood association, holding out the chance that Ruth will recover a lost, parent-like figure in Norfolk. The students themselves suggest this comparison between models and normal parents, in their debate about the ages of their models. Ruth’s possible also reflects the hope of an alternate future for Ruth. Although she feigns indifference about the trip, her anxiety about its near-cancellation suggests that she does believe she will learn something about her future. In a more limited way, the trip also represents possibility for Chrissie and Rodney. Instead of dreaming about alternate careers, Chrissie and Rodney hope only to postpone their future as donors. The rumor of a deferral process for Hailsham students holds out this possibility. Kathy strongly implies that their desire to confirm this rumor is the real inspiration for the trip, casting doubt on Rodney’s story about the possible. Rodney’s reluctance to discuss the subject of Ruth’s possible at lunch seems to support Kathy’s doubts. But like much of the evidence that Kathy collects, the signs that Rodney may be lying about Ruth’s possible are largely circumstantial.

Read more about how the students engage in fantasies of the future.

Chrissie, Rodney, and Ruth are all willing to hope on the basis of rumor and speculation. Just as Rodney and Chrissie feed Ruth’s hopes with their story of the “possible,” Ruth feeds their hopes with vague allusions to the deferral process. This mutual hopefulness draws the three of them together. Meanwhile, Kathy’s skepticism and Tommy’s confusion make them outliers in the group. Kathy suspects the veterans of lying about Ruth’s possible, and later sees through Ruth’s bluffing about deferrals. But she generally keeps her observations to herself, demonstrating her subtlety as well as her allegiance to Ruth. Although Tommy is also an outsider on the trip, his blunt responses contrast with Kathy’s restraint and awareness. Where Kathy supports Ruth’s claims, Tommy straightforwardly denies knowing anything about deferrals. These comments threaten the sense of possibility that drives Ruth and the veterans, provoking Ruth to label his cluelessness as a sign of his outsider status at Hailsham. Ruth’s attitude in the car reflects the growing divisions in the group, as she ignores Kathy and Tommy to speak only with the veterans. Ruth also remains a symbolic wedge between Kathy and Tommy. Although Ruth ignores Tommy on the drive, she also refuses to let Kathy take her place next to him.

Read more about Kathy and Ruth’s relationship.