Below is a list of the main characters that appear in the novel, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Kathy is the narrator of the novel, she is 31 years old when she is telling us the story and is working as a ‘carer’ of the clones who are donating their organs. Like them she will eventually have her organs harvested through a series of donations until she completes.
During her childhood, Kathy is shown to be a very kindly and loving person with a strong sense of right and wrong. However it’s important to remember that she is narrating the novel so she would want to come across that way. She supports Tommy who suffers bullying at Hailsham School, She also shows support for Ruth who is sometimes unkind to Kathy. Throughout the novel Kathy struggles to show much emotion about her life and circumstances, remaining mainly strong and accepting of them.
Tommy is a male friend of Kathy’s at Hailsham. As a child Tommy finds it difficult to control his emotions and as a result is picked on by some of the other children. He struggles particularly with the creative work that the Hailsham children are encouraged to undertake. This lack of creative ability upsets Tommy until Miss Lucy tells him something that, for the short term, positively changes his life: it is okay if he’s not creative. He feels great sense of relief. Later Miss Lucy tells him that she shouldn’t have said what she did, and Tommy is once again upset by his lack of artistic skills, he becomes a quiet and sad teenager. Later in the novel Tommy has a relationship with Ruth and, eventually, with Kathy who also ultimately becomes his carer.
Ruth is Kathy’s main friend during the Hailsham years. This is something of a love/hate relationship as Kathy finds that sometimes Ruth can be overbearing and manipulative. In Part one of the novel Ruth is a dominant character who controls her friendship group at school. Later it becomes apparent that she is not as confident as she first appears and as the reality of how her life will inevitably pan out in the future, Ruth becomes increasingly withdrawn and, ultimately, despairs.
At The Cottages, Ruth tries desperately to fit in, especially with the non-Hailsham characters Chrissie and Rodney. She becomes very impatient with Kathy’s continued preoccupation with Hailsham, which leads to a breakdown in their relationship. Ruth rejects things from her past that she perceives will negatively affect her image. She throws away her entire collection of art by fellow students, once her prized possession, out of a sense of embarrassment about where she has come from. As an adult she is deeply unhappy and regretful. Ruth eventually gives up on all of her hopes and dreams but tries to help Kathy and Tommy have a better life.
Madame is a woman who regularly visits Hailsham and picks up the children’s artwork, she is described as a ‘mystery’ by the students at Hailsham. She acts in a professional and stern manner, a young Kathy describes her as distant and forbidding. When the children decide to play a prank on her and swarm around her to see what she will do, they are shocked to discover that she seems disgusted by them. Later in the novel Kathy and Tommy visit Madame in the forlorn hope that she can offer Tommy a ‘deferral’ from donations.
Miss Emily is the Headmistress of Hailsham, who can be very strict, according to Kathy. The children thought she had an extra sense which allowed her to know where a child was if he or she was hiding. The regime that Miss Emily runs at Hailsham is designed to treat the clones humanely and demonstrate, through their creative work that the children do have ‘souls’. Working within the system Miss Emily unsuccessfully seeks to challenge the ethics of the cloning programme.
Miss Lucy is a teacher (or Guardian) at Hailsham with whom the children feel comfortable. She is one of the younger teachers at Hailsham. Miss Lucy does not believe the realities of the children’s futures should be hidden from them and breaks the school rules by telling the children that their dreams of a happy and fulfilling future will never be realised and that they exist only for organ donation. Miss Lucy suddenly disappears from Hailsham (the reader can assume she has been sacked). One of the central debates of the novel is around whether Miss Lucy is right in telling the children the truth, or Miss Emily in protecting them from it.
Chrissy is another “donor” who Kathy, Ruth and Tommy meet at the Cottages. She is older than them and more ‘worldly’. She believes the former Hailsham students are a privileged group who might be able to get a donation ‘deferral’. She and her boyfriend, Rodney, ‘find’ Ruth’s “possible” (the person they believe Ruth is cloned from) and take Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth to Norfolk to see her. She “completes” before the book ends.
Rodney is Chrissy’s boyfriend who also is at the Cottages. It is Rodney who first sees the woman they think is Ruth’s “possible”. The relationship between Chrissy and Rodney ends before they “complete”.