- What is the symbolic significance of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy’s trip to the boat?
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The abandoned boat that the trio visits is an important symbol of their shared past. Like Hailsham, a boat offers a small, isolated place of refuge in the ocean, where people would otherwise be lost to cold, ruthless nature. And like a boat, Hailsham is also subject to forces much larger than itself––just as a boat can easily be wrecked in a storm, so too can Hailsham easily lose funding and close at the turn of public opinion.
Abandoned and decaying, the boat foreshadows the intense grief and loss that will come in the final chapters. Although Hailsham has been repurposed rather than actually abandoned, Tommy admits that since it has closed, he visualizes Hailsham as empty and surrounded by marshlands, not unlike the boat. Importantly, Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy are only able to seriously discuss their role as donors after confronting this symbol of their shared past. This suggests that the past might prevent people from seeing the present clearly, a thematic idea that also lends insight into Kathy’s narrative, which relies heavily on memory.