Analysis

Kathy’s last years at Hailsham are filled with foreboding signs, and Miss Lucy’s odd behavior contributes heavily to the ominous atmosphere. Miss Lucy’s speech in the sports pavilion reflects her ongoing struggle with her role as a guardian. Her speech also provides the students with an unusually straightforward account of the donation program, something that Kathy as a narrator has not provided her reader until now. In this way, Kathy makes the reader’s experience mirror her own: the novel’s first explicit description of the future occurs when young Kathy hears it from Miss Lucy. Miss Lucy delivers her ominous message of adulthood in the sports pavilion, which was once a private hideaway for Kathy and her friends. No longer a sanctuary associated with girlhood, the pavilion is now the place where Kathy must directly confront the future. Miss Lucy cuts off all chatter about dream careers, as the rainstorm outside mirrors the bleak message that she delivers. Just as quickly, however, the students manage to push this knowledge away, focusing on Miss Lucy’s oddity instead.

As the students prepare to leave Hailsham, donations and sexual relationships become parallel markers of their transition to adulthood. Like donations, sex also differentiates the students, who cannot bear children, from people in the outside world. Miss Emily reinforces the association between donations and sex in her lectures, which often combine the two subjects. But her frankness about sex contrasts with the guardians’ continued delicateness on the subject of donations. The students mirror this, openly discussing sex and relationships while generally avoiding talk of the donations that will shape their adult lives. Kathy’s memories of Harry C. continue to highlight this tension. While Harry the student is Kathy’s intended choice for a first sexual partner, Harry the donor is almost a stranger. Her memory of seeing Harry at a recovery center highlights the divide between their Hailsham childhood and their adult lives. Harry’s apparent failure to recognize her also emphasizes Kathy’s lonely position as a guardian of Hailsham memories.

As a narrator, Kathy replicates the guardians’ narrative strategy of “telling and not telling.” She is highly indirect about her own feelings, especially when it comes to her interest in Tommy. The first time that she mentions Tommy’s relationship with Ruth is in the context of their breakup. Her brief reference to the breakup itself is almost an afterthought, introduced as a potential reason for Tommy’s moodiness. While it is possible that Kathy does not recall any anecdotes from Tommy and Ruth’s six-month relationship, the complete omission suggests that she has likely chosen to skip over it. Kathy describes her response to the breakup in equally indirect terms, never directly stating that she is interested in a relationship with Tommy. Instead, she signals this interest implicitly via her actions. When her friends suggest that she will take Ruth's place, Kathy stops pursuing Harry C. Kathy's account of her memories shows that she is still hesitant to share her feelings about Tommy, even as an adult. It also reflects her ongoing unreliability as a narrator.

The end of Kathy’s last summer at Hailsham is also an end to her childhood. Her quiet reverie by the window captures the calm before the tumult of her transition away from Hailsham. Just as Miss Lucy interrupted the boys who spoke about becoming actors in the sports pavilion, she also interrupts Kathy’s daydream with the ominous “hissing” of her pencil. Kathy’s investigation of the hissing noise leads only to shame and confusion. The scene reflects Miss Lucy’s ongoing struggle with her role, and her angry scribbling is a destructive counterpart to the students’ artistic creations. Noticeably, she does not speak to Kathy. Miss Lucy remains confusingly unreadable, much like the scribbled-out papers before her. Foreboding and ambiguous, the papers echo Kathy’s own sense of the future. Tommy’s parallel encounter with Miss Lucy also leaves him confused and disturbed. But while Kathy internalizes her sense of unease, Tommy expresses his anxiety by releasing his temper once again. Like the rainstorm and Miss Lucy’s scribbling, the return of Tommy’s temper is an ominous sign for the future.

Miss Lucy’s abrupt departure heightens the students' sense of uncertainty and foreboding about the future. It also removes Tommy and Kathy’s best chance at solving the mysteries surrounding creativity at Hailsham. Her ominous reference to artwork as “evidence” parallels Tommy and Kathy’s own interest in evidence to support their theories, but does not bring them any closer to answers. For the students, Miss Lucy’s departure is also an abrupt and disorienting experience of loss. Tommy’s decision to reunite with Ruth that evening recalls the refrain of the song “Never Let Me Go.” He responds to the loss of Miss Lucy and to the imminent loss of Hailsham by holding onto his relationship with Ruth. In the face of an uncertain future away from the school and their guardians, the students must turn to one another for stability.