As the students get older, Miss Lucy continues to make cryptic comments, including an allusion to “terrible accidents” that have happened at other schools. One day when Kathy is fifteen, Miss Lucy overhears the students talking about the careers they want when they grow up, and she becomes very upset. She gives a speech to the students around her, explaining to them that they will never grow old or have careers because they will be compelled to make organ donations as young adults.
The speech fails to make an impression on the students. Kathy thinks this is because they have already been “told and not told” (84) about the donations––that is, the information has been presented to them, but in such a way that they will never question it. However, after Miss Lucy’s speech the donations go from being the topic of jokes to a “sombre and serious” (88) subject that is rarely discussed.
Miss Lucy continues to behave oddly. One day when she is 15 or 16, Kathy stumbles upon Miss Lucy furiously underlining a page of handwritten text. Meanwhile, Ruth and Tommy have become a romantic couple. The guardians send very mixed messages about sex: On the one hand, the students are given detailed sex education and taught that sex can be fun and beautiful when it’s with the right person; on the other, the students are not allowed to be intimate with each other on campus.
At 16, Kathy decides to lose her virginity and begins making overtures to Harry C. Although she is not interested in him romantically, she rationalizes that she should “practice” having sex with someone she doesn’t care about first, so she will know what she’s doing when she does fall in love with someone.
This plan runs amok when Ruth and Tommy break up. Many of Kathy’s friends believe she will be Ruth’s “natural successor” (100) as Tommy’s girlfriend; Kathy begins to like this idea and loses interest in Harry. However, before Kathy can pursue the relationship, Ruth confides that she wants to get back together with Tommy and asks Kathy to help her do so. Kathy reluctantly agrees to help.
She goes to encourage Tommy to patch things up with Ruth, but Tommy is not interested in talking about relationships. Instead, he tells Kathy about another conversation he has had with Miss Lucy. The guardian seemed very upset, and told Tommy that Madame’s gallery is “much more important than I once thought” (108). Contrary to what she told him as a child, he must actually try very hard to be creative. Kathy is unsettled by this, so she abruptly ends the conversation by urging Tommy to get back together with Ruth. A few months before Kathy leaves Hailsham, Miss Lucy is fired, and Ruth and Tommy begin dating again.
At sixteen, the students are dispersed to living facilities across England for young adult clones. Kathy and seven others from Hailsham, including Tommy and Ruth, are sent to the Cottages, a repurposed farm. There, they are expected to write a long academic essay, but no one takes this assignment very seriously. At the Cottages, Ruth and Tommy begin indulging in very public displays of affection. Kathy notices that many of the older clones, or “veterans,” copy their mannerisms from television sitcoms, and Ruth is starting to pick up this habit as well. One day Kathy confronts Ruth about this, explaining, “It looks daft” (124). Ruth bitterly implies that Kathy is jealous because she hasn’t befriended the older students like Ruth has.
This section covers the end of Part One and the beginning of Part Two. In Kathy’s final years at Hailsham, secrets begin to assume an ever more important role in the students’ lives; in their conversations, the substance of the exchange is often in what lies unsaid. A prime example of this is Kathy’s exchange with Tommy; she implies that she cares deeply about him and he suggests that he is unsure whether to pursue a romance with Kathy or with Ruth.
The characters’ new appreciation of subtlety helps to explain why the conversation at the end of Chapter 10 is so shocking. This is not the first time Kathy has confronted Ruth about her disingenuous behavior; the discussion is very similar to the pencil-case incident from the previous section.
In this case, though, Kathy does not let the matter go when she sees Ruth is uncomfortable, and the girls openly discuss matters that are usually not spoken about––for example, the difficulty of adjusting to life at the Cottages and Kathy’s affairs with the veterans. As we learn in Chapter 11, this discussion is itself in violation of the unspoken rule “that anything we told each other during these [bedtime heart-to-hearts] would be treated with careful respect ... we wouldn’t use against each other anything we’d talked about” (126).
This section displays Kathy’s pragmatic regulation of her emotions. She decides early on that she will lose her virginity to someone she does not care much about, so that she will have experience when she falls in love. Likewise, she cares deeply about Tommy but does not allow herself to think of him as a romantic possibility until Cynthia and Hannah suggest that he likes her. This personality trait helps to explain her emotional reserve later in the book when Tommy makes his final donation.
However, we might also view Kathy’s pragmatism as an intellectual posture towards death, to be contrasted with Miss Lucy’s outlook. Miss Lucy chooses to be fully aware of death and its consequences, as she believes this is the only way a person can live a “decent life.” However, this brutal honesty costs Miss Lucy her job and more importantly, her emotional health; she often seems upset and barely able to control herself. Although Kathy’s worldview requires her to avoid thinking too carefully about the donations, it also allows her to experience some happiness and inner peace in spite of her bleak future.