Tommy in Never Let Me Go

  • Struggles with artistic work.
  • Struggles to control his temper.

Tommy is another pupil who attends Hailsham School and from the beginning it is obvious that he feels a particular bond of friendship towards Kathy. She does not tease him in the way the other students do, particularly over his lack of artistic talent. Indeed Kathy tries to calm Tommy and prevent him from having one of his many temper tantrums which she knows will make him a focal point of fun for the other pupils, So I reached forward and put a hand on his arm. Although Ruth later begins a relationship with Tommy, his feelings of friendship towards Kathy continue. Later, when Tommy begins donating his organs Kathy becomes his carer and they become a couple. It is only when Kathy and Tommy discover the deferral system does not exist that they part, with Tommy telling Kathy that he would prefer to have another carer for the final part of his donation process.

Struggles with artistic work

How is Tommy like this?

Tommy finds all kinds of creative work difficult. This is especially hard on him because as a pupil at Hailsham School, he is expected to perform well in art and craft lessons. Art has a special significance at Hailsham and not just because the pupils are awarded tokens if they produce excellent pieces of work but because Madame takes the best pieces of art away for her gallery. Even though the students do not know the significance of this, they are aware that it is important. This is why Tommy gets so anxious about his lack of artistic talent.

Evidence

Then everyone was talking at once, about how Tommy never even tried to be creative, about how he hadn’t even put anything in for the Spring Exchange.

Analysis

Tommy’s lack of artistic ability is made even worse because it is so obvious to the other students. Furthermore they are openly critical of Tommy and laugh at his lack of talent.

Struggles to control his temper

How is Tommy like this?

Tommy has difficulty controlling his temper, particularly during his younger years at Hailsham, often succumbing to his rages and having violent temper tantrums. This entertains the other students to the point where they hope Tommy will lose his temper so that they can enjoy watching him shout and lose control.

Evidence

He was just raving, flinging his limbs about, at the sky, at the wind, at the nearest fence post […] Someone else pointed out how each time he screamed something he’d raise one foot off the ground, pointing it outwards, ‘like a dog doing a pee’.

Analysis

Tommy’s lack of control is obvious here and he does not care that some of the other students are watching him. His temper tantrums appear to be a reflection of the frustration he feels at his lack of artistic talent. Later in the novel, when Miss Lucy, one of the guardians, tells him that he should not mind lacking in creativity, he begins to calm down. However, his attitude changes again when Miss Lucy tells him she was wrong to suggest creativity is unimportant and although his temper tantrums do not return, he becomes unhappy and rather introverted as he tries to find his place in the world.