In Never Let Me Go, how might Ruth's social behavior at Hailsham and later at the cottages be explained? Why is she so eager to seek her "possible"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The idea of a “possible,” the person who had been the original on which a clone was based, intrigues the clone characters who populate Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, but they generally keep their interest bottled up. Kathy’s memories of Ruth—which are the filter through which the reader learns about her—show that even as a young girl, she was a strong-willed person with a carefully constructed worldview, including how other children could earn their way into her good graces, such as becoming a member of the “guard” she created for Miss Geraldine. Kathy soon realizes that Ruth is a liar who cannot accept her own ignorance and invents stories to cover it up. It is only when Kathy exposes one of Ruth’s lies that she gains her respect, which leads to a solid friendship between them.

After Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy move from Hailsham to the cottages, two veterans tell Ruth that they may have seen her possible. This is apparently the first such report Ruth has ever heard. The details of the sighting, such as the type of office in which she worked, begin to intrigue her. Although Kathy claims the idea of the possible does not really interest her, she may disclaim interest because it was not her possible who was sighted. She goes along with Ruth’s plan to go to the woman’s office to see for themselves.

It is on the trip out of town to look for this woman that the topic of “deferment” is brought up by the veterans, Chrissie and Rodney. The former Hailsham students claim never to have heard of the idea, which is essentially to extend the time before their organs are harvested and they die. The topic seems to unnerve Tommy, so it may be that he had heard the tale before and has contemplated trying to do it.

When it turns out that the woman does not resemble Ruth closely enough to be her possible, Ruth shows a different side of her personality. She claims it is well known that their models were nothing like bank clerks, but were “trash,” such as “junkies.” This is the first real indication that all Ruth’s earlier behavior was bravado to cover her real feelings about her “rubbish-bin” origins. She had longed to learn that a middle-class woman was actually her original in order to enhance her feelings about herself.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ruth's social behavior, which includes her determination to locate her "possible," can be explained in psychological terms that concern Ruth's unconscious drives and desires. Ruth presents two very different sides of her personality to her friends and peers, and her social behaviors reflect these differences.

As a clone with very deep human feelings, Ruth may struggle with her own lack of family history and personal identity. Her tendency to compete with her peers indicates a profound insecurity in her own being, while her need to play pretend and make-believe games reflect a deep-seeded hope that things could one day be different.

Ruth may not be aware of these desires to imagine a better life for herself, one that includes a sense of understanding, family, and self. Things change, however, when she actually becomes a donor. For some reason, donating changes Ruth's outlook, and her behavior towards others becomes more generous.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ruth, as her name suggests, has a ruthless quality that drives her to behave in self-centered ways. Her understanding of her fate is driven by strong feelings of self-preservation, and she is willing to manipulate her friends (seducing Tommy when she knows Cathy loves him, and later telling Cathy she has no chance with Tommy, for example) and adapt quickly to her surroundings (as when she imitates the gestures and phrases repeated in an outdated popular television show, for example) in order to ensure her survival. Seeking her original clone/parent is a way for her to confirm the uniqueness of her own existence, perhaps to emphasize her desire to fight to survive, and to justify her often drastic means.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial