Ruth in Never Let Me Go

Ruth is one of Kathy’s closest friends at Hailsham School and they later move to The Cottages at the same time. However, although there are times when Ruth shows great kindness towards Kathy, such as replacing Kathy’s missing Judy Bridgewater tape with one she thinks she will like, I found it at the last Sale. I just thought it’s the sort of thing you’d like, she can also be extremely unkind and manipulative towards her. It is not until Ruth begins to donate that it becomes clear she has resented a great deal about her life as a clone and that her actions are due in part to her own lack of confidence. Before she dies, she admits to trying to keep Kathy and Tommy apart and urges them to find some happiness before it is too late.

Manipulative

How is Ruth like this?

Ruth tries to manipulate situations so that they have the outcome she wants them to have. She is determined that Tommy will not want to leave her in order to have a relationship with Kathy so she twists and manipulates Kathy’s words, making it seem as if Kathy thinks his attempts at drawing are laughable. Tommy’s lack of artistic talent is something he has battled with and been embarrassed by throughout his life. Ruth knows therefore that Tommy will be particularly hurt at the thought of Kathy laughing at his attempts to draw.

Evidence

It’s not just me, sweety. Kathy here finds your animals a complete hoot. (Ruth to Tommy)

Look, Tommy, you’ve got to understand,” Ruth went on. “If Kathy and I have a good laugh about you, it doesn’t really matter. Because that’s just us. But please, let’s not bring everyone else in on it. (Ruth to Tommy)

Analysis

Here the reader can see how Ruth manipulates the memory of a conversation she had with Kathy. Ruth has been comforting Kathy about Lenny, Kathy’s boyfriend, leaving to become a carer. She spots Kathy’s Judy Bridgewater tape and Kathy is forced to admit that another copy of the tape had been found whilst she was with Tommy in Norfolk when Ruth had gone with Chrissie and Rodney to visit their friend Martin. Sensing that Kathy feels uncomfortable at having kept the discovery hidden, Ruth swiftly turns the conversation around to Tommy’s artwork. Ruth knows Kathy well enough to understand that Kathy will be keen to keep the peace between them. Therefore, when Ruth begins to mock Tommy’s drawings Kathy joins in with her laughter instead of admitting how good they are. Ruth stores away this memory until she can use it against Kathy which she does at a later date, humiliating Tommy in the process and ensuring that he is hurt by Kathy’s laughter.

Desperate to fit in

How is Ruth like this?

From the moment Ruth arrives at The Cottages she makes it obvious that she aspires to be like the veterans and is desperate to fit in with them. Ruth watches the actions of the veterans carefully, especially those who are in a relationship and tries to mimic their behaviour with her own.

Evidence

Anyway, my point is, it wasn’t long before Ruth realised the way she’d been carrying on with Tommy was all wrong for the Cottages, and she set about changing how they did things in front of people.

Analysis

When she realises that the couples at The Cottages do not often openly display affection for one another she tries to adopt the same attitude and instead of hugging and kissing Tommy as she would have done at Hailsham, Ruth simply slaps his arm, a gesture used by the veterans. Ruth is also keen to distance herself from anything related to her old school and will often claim to have forgotten events that happened there or conversations and jokes that Kathy can remember quite clearly.

Regrets past actions

How is Ruth like this?

When Ruth begins the donation process and Kathy becomes her carer, Ruth regrets the way she has previously behaved. She admits to Kathy and Tommy that she purposely tried to keep them apart and even urges them to apply for a deferral in order to secure themselves some future happiness. As she matures, Ruth realises that her dream of working in a glass fronted office was no more than a dream and she accepts that she is unable to escape from the life that has been planned for her as a clone.

Evidence

That was the worst thing I did,she said again.I’m not even asking you to forgive me about that. God, I’ve said all this in my head so many times, I can’t believe I’m really doing it. It should have been you two. I’m not pretending I didn’t always see that. Of course I did, as far back as I can remember. But I kept you apart. I’m not asking you to forgive me for that. That’s not what I’m after just now. What I want is for you to put it right. Put right what I messed up for you.

Analysis

The fact that Ruth admits to going over what she would actually say to Kathy and Tommy if given the chance shows just how much she has thought about her past actions and therefore how much she regrets them. However, Ruth is not satisfied with forgiveness. The only way she feels her past actions can be really erased is if Kathy and Tommy try to have a future together, however brief it might be.

Analysing the evidence

“I was never sure if Ruth had actually invented the secret guard herself, but there was no doubt she was the leader. There were between six and ten of us, the figure changing whenever Ruth allowed in a new member or expelled someone.”

Question

What do we learn about Ruth from this description?

This passage describes the time at Hailsham when Ruth is convinced that Miss Geraldine’s life is in danger. The fact that Kathy writes there was, ‘no doubt she was the leader,’ serves to underline the fact that Ruth was a domineering character. The fact that it was Ruth who had the power to expel students from the group or allow them to join, serves to highlight her power further. It seems that the other students generally listened to her and saw her as a natural leader.