Thursday, November 01, 2007


The first part is here. I should say that here, as in part one, page numbers refer to the Knopf paperback. Also, when a note begins with a page number, I'm not necessarily claiming that proof for that note will be found on that page. Sometimes the page number simply indicates when the thought in the note occurred to me.

p. 126: The Hailsham scenes are parodies of the boarding school scenes often found in English novels, except that the "pupils" are all going to have their organs harvested. Similarly, the scenes in the Cottages are parodies of college scenes, except that the "college" is a set of abandoned farm buildings, the "studies" are meaningless, and the "students" have no future.

p. 132: The veterans at the Cottages rarely talk about the students who leave to become carers, or about the courses to prepare for being carers: again, averting their eyes from the future.

p. 139: When the students argue about what age their "models" would be relative to themselves, and some argue that "they'd use for models people at the peak of their health ... around here, we'd all sense we were near territory we didn't want to enter": the fact that they were created to be harvested.

p. 140: Students argue whether "possibles" tell you "something of what your own life has in store" or whether "it was up to us to make of our lives what we could." Both positions are equally removed from reality.

The entire lives of the clones revolve around avoiding the truth as much as possible: at first by refusing to face it at all; then by ignoring it as much as possible; then, when they become carers and this becomes impossible, by using the language of "carer" and "donation" and "completion."

p. 142: Kathy's remarks about the "dream futures": "Maybe ... it was possible to forget for whole stretches of time who we really were"

pp. 142-43: "just for these few months, we somehow managed to live in this cosy state of suspension in which we could ponder our lives without the usual boundaries." College is supposed to be a time to "ponder [one's] life without the usual boundaries"; but in the clones' case, not only is the pondering pure fantasy, but their ideas of "life without the usual boundaries" are so restricted.

p. 152: Christine says "I know how lucky I am, getting to be at the Cottages," implying that most clones don't get any break between the "homes" they grow up in and becoming carers.

p. 192: Kathy is fascinated -- one might say magnetized -- by Ruth because Ruth constantly creates an aura of specialness around herself through make-believe and lies. This is the thematic reason why Ruth is so important in the novel: her specious "specialness" parallels the specious "specialness" of Hailsham itself. Does Ruth's sabotaging of Kathy and Tommy's relationship symbolize the life-distorting effects of Hailsham's myth of specialness?

Even now, Kathy doesn't fully recognize her own culpability in the churchyard incident.

(In my first post on Never Let Me Go, I'd written "In fact, when I reread the book, the part I most dreaded coming to was not the final confrontation with Miss Emily, or anything to do with the "donations," but the scene when Ruth betrays Tommy by telling him of Kathy's joining her in laughing at his animal pictures." Although I didn't reread my post before this reading, I reacted in just the same way this time, too. In fact, when I got to this point, I put the book down for a couple of days before reading the scene.)

p. 202: The reason why students volunteer to become carers, and why Kathy is proud of her work as a carer, is that they need to believe that their lives have some meaning other than being sources of spare parts.

Ruth doesn't quite come off as a monster, although she does awful things, because she is desperately trying to preserve her sense of specialness.

p. 257: Emily's speeches throughout this conversation have a very odd, unnatural tone.

Miss Emily is the original creator of the Hailsham myth, and still sees herself as a heroic figure. This conversation reveals that Emily, like Ruth, needs to be special and to be the center of attention; but, unlike Ruth, she deceives herself as well as others.

In previous readings I was never quite sure why Kathy and Tommy were so devastated by their conversation with Emily. When I wrote my first post on the book, I had concluded it was because of the revelation that even their guardians were afraid of them. But later I decided that was wrong. For one thing, neither Kathy nor Tommy seem to have been terribly attached to their guardians. For another, they were upset even before that revelation. Now, I think it was not one specific statement that upset them, but the conversation as a whole. They had believed in the myth of Hailsham, believed on some level that because they went to Hailsham they were different from other clones. Now they learn that Hailsham was not interested at all in them as individuals: they were essentially experimental subjects, even if the experiment was done with humane motives.

I had actually formulated this theory before I reached this section in my rereading. When I read Tommy's question to Miss Emily: "everything we did, all the lessons, everything. It was all about what you just told us [demonstrating that clones had souls]? There was nothing more to it than that?" (266) this made me more confident that I was right.

p. 266: Miss Emily's statement "There was a certain climate and now it's gone," referring to the campaign to demonstrate the humanity of clones, is remarkably unfeeling, so much so that even Kathy protests.

p. 268: Miss Emily admits that "sometimes ... we kept things from you, lied to you. Yes, in many ways we fooled you." [emphasis in original]

Miss Emily, the idealist, can only see Kathy and Tommy as the beneficiaries of her heroic efforts, and is indifferent to their fates as individuals. Madame, who had been visibly frightened of the pupils at Hailsham and who is now cynical about the whole enterprise, is the one who finally reaches out to them as humans. (272)

That's enough for now, I think. I have some more general thoughts, but I'll save them for the final installment.

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