Never Let Me Go portrays Ruth and Kathy as best friends, each privy to the other’s thoughts and emotions. However, in part two of the novel, their relationship begins to unravel as their priorities change: Ruth is focused on impressing the veterans, while Kathy is interested in understanding the truth behind Hailsham’s purpose. Using metaphors and syntax, Never Let Me Go presents the interactions between Ruth and Kathy to undermine the notion that relationships are built on trust; thus, to successfully seek truth, an individual must be willing to forgo relationships even if doing so causes discomfort.
Despite Kathy and Ruth being best friends, the power dynamics in their relationship are largely unbalanced: Kathy often defers to Ruth, who uses that knowledge to manipulate Kathy and maintain control. However, Kathy questions Ruth’s behavior when she asks Ruth, “‘Why do you always hit Tommy [Ruth’s boyfriend] on the arm like that when you’re saying goodbye? You know what I mean’” (123). The short syntax of “You know what I mean” reflects Kathy’s direct confronting of Ruth in order to find out the truth. Kathy also points out that Ruth’s actions are not representative of “normal life” (124) and that Ruth is blindly copying Chrissie and Rodney, two veterans that Ruth is trying to impress. However, Kathy immediately realizes that she had “made a mistake…It was like when you make a move in chess and just as you take your finger off the piece, you see the mistake you’ve made, and there’s this panic because you don’t know yet the scale of disaster you’ve left yourself open to” (124). Kathy’s acknowledgement that she “made a mistake” indicates the power Ruth has over her because Kathy is much more likely to apologize than Ruth is. Furthermore, by comparing her relationship with Ruth to a chess game, Kathy reveals the calculated scheming underlying their so-called friendship: both Kathy and Ruth are hyper-aware of each “move in chess” they make. Kathy is also constantly in “this panic” because Ruth does not offer any real stability and constancy. Thus, when Ruth lashes back with an intimate detail Kathy had confided in her about, Kathy walks “off without another word” (125).
However, Kathy remains friends with Ruth because Ruth is still her closest confidant. Although there are other instances in which Kathy calls Ruth out (for example, when Ruth pretends to have forgotten certain aspects of Hailsham), Kathy’s desire to help Ruth outweighs her seeking of the truth—when Ruth encourages the incorrect idea that Hailsham offers its inhabitants special privileges, Kathy plays along with her ruse. Furthermore, when Tommy tells Kathy about his Gallery theory (that art can be used as evidence for love) and Ruth makes fun of it, Kathy is unable to stand up for Tommy. Due to the nature of her relationship with Ruth, Kathy does not definitively expose Ruth’s lies and manipulation. Ultimately, Kathy’s search for truth remains unfinished because her relationship with Ruth takes precedence.
- Chess (http://wallpaperswide.com/chess_game_3-wallpapers.html)
- Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print.