Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-14


Kathy is extremely upset with Ruth’s comment about her sexual escapades. Right after arriving at the Cottages, Kathy casually had sex with a number of the older boys there. During one of their intimate conversations before bed, Kathy confided this in Ruth, and she is now upset that Ruth would bring up Kathy’s secret during a fight.

In her early months at the Cottages, Ruth becomes fixated on becoming popular among the veterans. She often behaves oddly in their presence, and throws away her collection of art from Hailsham when she realizes the veterans do not have similar collections. One day, Tommy catches Kathy looking at some pornographic magazines. He observes that she appears to be looking for something in the magazines, as opposed to doing it “for kicks” (136).

One day, Chrissie and Rodney return from a trip to Norfolk; they believe they’ve spotted a “possible” for Ruth––that is, the ‘normal’ person whom she was cloned from. Rodney, Chrissy, Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy all go to Cromer to look for the possible.

Ruth and Kathy fight during the long car ride. When they all stop to eat in a café, Kathy notices that Chrissie and Tommy seem to be under the impression that Hailsham students are exempt from the normal donation process, and that they can pursue other jobs besides being a carer. Ruth encourages their misunderstanding by insinuating that she will be allowed to work in an office after she graduates from the Cottages.

Chrissie and Rodney ask about a rumor they’ve heard––that Hailsham students are allowed to apply for deferrals before beginning their donations if they are “really, properly in love” (153). Chrissie and Rodney believe this is so the students who are in love can have a few years together before beginning the donation process.

Kathy knows the rumor is false, but again, Ruth encourages Chrissie and Rodney’s mistake, claiming that the deferral program exists but she does not know exactly how to apply. Tommy is angry that Ruth would mislead them and tries to explain that there is no deferral program. However, Ruth explains that Tommy simply doesn’t know about the program because “he was left out of everything [at Hailsham] and people were always laughing at him” (155).

Before finding Ruth’s possible, everyone goes to Woolworth’s so Chrissie and Rodney can shop for birthday cards. Inside, Kathy overhears Ruth lying to Chrissie again about the donation deferrals. After shopping, the group goes to the office to spy on Ruth’s possible. Everyone agrees that the woman, about fifty, strongly resembles Ruth and is a very likely candidate.

They follow the woman to an art gallery, where they see that she is definitely not Ruth’s model. Ruth is despondent and has an angry outburst, complaining that “we are modelled on trash” (166) and an office would be the wrong place to look for possibles, anyway. “If you want to look for possibles, if you want to do it properly,” she continues, “then you look in the gutter.” Chrissie, Rodney, and Ruth go to visit an older friend who has graduated from the Cottages and become a carer. Kathy doesn’t want to go, and Tommy stays with her to explore the city.


In this section, Ishiguro hones his focus on the clones’ origins, using Ruth’s quest to find her “possible” as an opportunity to explain how the clones came to be, and how the shroud of mystery around their origins affects their psyches. In Ishiguro’s world, the longing for a parent is a crucial component of human nature––even for those who have no parents. As Kathy tries to explain, finding a possible might lend some insight on a clone’s present and future.

The clones’ obsession with finding their originals reveals a deep-seated belief in fate and predestination––after all, finding one’s original is only meaningful if the clones are in some way bound to a fate. Their mentality on issues of free will is consistent with their lives: they are bred solely for the purpose of organ donation, and it makes sense that they might feel that other parts of life––their personalities, their futures––are similarly out of their control.

Individual lives in Never Let Me Go seem predestined, but Ishiguro’s portrayal of a world without free will is dark and bleak. The truly subversive element of his allegory is the degree to which the clones are reconciled to their fates; they do not consider the angst that might result if, for example, their original turned out to be someone undesirable (as Ruth suggests many of the originals are). They can only imagine a positive outcome from knowing their “futures,” a detail that resonates poignantly with the gruesome deaths they will experience as donors.

Ruth’s character becomes more complex in these chapters. In Norfolk, her pathological lying crosses a line when she lies to Chrissie and Rodney about the deferral program. While her previous deceptions have been petty and self-serving, this is the first that is overtly cruel. On the other hand, we also begin to understand why Ruth and Kathy are friends at all––they are loyal to each other no matter what, and for all her flaws, Ruth can also be “encouraging, funny, tactful, wise” (126).

Despite the comprehensive sex education at Hailsham, Kathy has a conflicted relationship with sex. As a young adult, she does not realize that her sexual urges are normal, and Ruth is little help––although she tries to support Kathy, she agrees that her friend’s casual liaisons are “strange.” Despite knowing about sex objectively, Kathy and her peers suffer because they do not communicate much about sex and relationships (much of Kathy’s anxiety comes from concerns about whether her urges and sexual habits are “normal”). The harm that non-communication wreaks on the psyche is one of the novel’s main thematic concerns.