Kathy H in Never Let Me Go

  • Caring.
  • Determined.
  • Accepting.

When the novel begins Kathy is an adult looking back over the years she spent as a student at Hailsham school. There is a sense that the time she spent at the school is precious to her as she finds it impossible to leave her memories behind, There have been times over the years when I’ve tried to leave Hailsham behind, when I’ve told myself I shouldn’t look back so much. But then there came a point when I stopped resisting.

Kathy’s friendships with Tommy and Ruth are also extremely important, although the reader notices almost immediately that no mention is made of Kathy or any of the other students missing their parents or other family members. Kathy goes into great detail when she is reminiscing about her time spent at Hailsham, commenting on the school buildings, other students and the discussions they had in great detail. We loved our sports pavilion. Maybe because it reminded us of those sweet little cottages people always had in picture books when we were young. As the novel progresses, the reader is able to see the way in which Kathy responds to the difficulties she faces, including dealing with Ruth’s domineering personality, her relationship with Tommy and her ultimate acceptance of her fate as a donor.

Caring

How is Kathy like this?

Kathy shows great empathy towards the donors she cares for. She is patient with them and unlike some of the other carers, she is able to cope with seeing them after they have donated their organs. For some carers, like Kathy’s old school friend Laura, looking after a patient who has donated is an all too painful reminder of the carer’s own future but Kathy is able to push this aside and focus on the needs of the donor.

Evidence

“I don’t claim I’ve beenimmune to all of this, but I’ve learnt to live with it. Some carers, though, their whole attitude lets them down. A lot of them, you can tell, are just going through the motions, waiting for the day they’re told they can stop and become donors. It really gets to me too, the way so many of them ‘shrink’ the moment they step inside a hospital. They don’t know what to say to the white coats; they can’t make themselves speak up on behalf of their donor.”

Analysis

Kathy despises the way some of the carers put their own feelings before those of the donors they have been assigned to. Kathy’s caring side is shown because she is able to be more concerned with her patients’ needs. Even though her role as a carer is a constant reminder of her own future, she does not hesitate to liaise with the doctors in order to discuss her patients’ most recent organ donation and any of the accompanying side effects.

Determined

How is Kathy like this?

Kathy proves to be single-minded and determined when it comes to making decisions about important issues. Once she has made up her mind about something, nothing will prevent her from seeing the action through to the end.

Evidence

“It wasn’t long after I made my decision, and once I’d made it, I never wavered. I just got up one morning and told Keffers I wanted to start my training to become a carer.”

Analysis

Kathy’s decision to leave The Cottages and begin her training as a carer comes partly as a result of her irritation with the way Ruth has been behaving. Ruth tells Kathy that Tommy would never want to be in a relationship with her as she has had too many one night stands for his taste. Kathy is also infuriated by the way Ruth pretends to have forgotten incidents which occurred when they were students in Hailsham. Kathy’s use of the word ‘wavered’ shows just how determined she is and that she has no intention of changing her mind.

Accepting

How is Kathy like this?

Throughout the novel the reader is able to glimpse signs of Kathy’s determination and strength and the fact that she is extremely caring towards her patients even though this is a constant reminder of her own grim future. However, there is a side to Kathy which is also accepting of her fate. At the end of the novel neither she nor Tommy rebel against the system that means they will complete at a relatively young age. She accepts the fact that the deferral system does not exist and the novel closes with her driving in her car, knowing that before long she too will begin the donation process.

Evidence

We hardly discussed our meeting with Miss Emily and Madame on the journey back. Or if we did, we talked only about the less important things, like how much we thought they’d aged, or the stuff in their house.

Analysis

Even immediately after hearing from Miss Emily and Madame that the deferral system does not exist, Kathy seems full of acceptance at the news. She realises that her fate is sealed. She will soon begin the donation process and Tommy will complete his. No plans are made to rebel against a system that ensures humans are saved at the expense of the clones and both she and Tommy even discuss the furniture in the home of Miss Emily and Madame, as if they do not have more important things to talk about. Kathy’s acceptance is perhaps an acknowledgment that she is helpless and that nothing can be done to change her future.

Analysing the evidence

I was talking to one of my donors a few days ago who was complaining about how memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t see them ever fading. I lost Ruth, then I lost Tommy, but I won’t lose my memories of them.

Question

What does this passage tell us about Kathy?

This passage reveals how important memories are to Kathy. Unlike Ruth, Kathy does not try to deny her memories from the past, particularly those from her days at Hailsham school. Instead, she cherishes memories of the people she has cared for and they bring her comfort, especially when she is on her own and driving from one recovery centre to another.