In Never Let Me Go, what is the significance of the imaginary game Kathy H. plays with Ruth?

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Ruth has an expressive, dominant personality that comes out throughout the novel. Kathy is passive, the follower of the pair, and defers to Ruth's leadership at every turn. We're introduced to their dynamic in Chapter Four when Ruth strong-arms Kathy into playing a make-believe game.

Ruth dispenses of the other...

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Ruth has an expressive, dominant personality that comes out throughout the novel. Kathy is passive, the follower of the pair, and defers to Ruth's leadership at every turn. We're introduced to their dynamic in Chapter Four when Ruth strong-arms Kathy into playing a make-believe game.

Ruth dispenses of the other girls who are playing with Kathy and insists Kathy play only with her. She explains the many rules of the game she has made up and becomes upset when Kathy doesn't follow the rules exactly as Ruth likes them followed. When Ruth lashes out at Kathy and insists Kathy "clean-up" their pretend game, Kathy does so willingly.

This dynamic follows the girls into adolescence and is most evident when it comes to their relationship with Tommy. Kathy experiences deep feelings for him, which are brushed aside when Ruth announces her intentions. Ruth spends much of their later years bossing Kathy around, which comes to a head when they are adults and begin to fight more often. Later, Kathy becomes a carer for other clones, a job for which she is well-suited due to her calm and peaceful nature—the same qualities that make her naturally subordinate to Ruth.

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The game of pretend horses that Kathy and Ruth play together is significant because it reveals that the nature of their personalities and their relationship has been established at a very young age, at a very early stage of their friendship.

Ruth's bossiness and her need to lead Kathy are clear in Ruth's many instructions and demands of Kathy as they play together. Because the game is imaginary, Ruth's arbitrary setting of expectations on Kathy suggests that Ruth's tendency to hold power over Kathy is a part of Ruth's personality more than a part of an established game. Kathy's willingness to be led is also notable; though Ruth is unnecessarily pushy with Kathy, Kathy tolerates this behavior, foreshadowing her later tolerance of Ruth's unfair treatment when the two girls become adolescents.

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This event occurs in Chapter Four, as Ruth is first introduced to us at Hailsham when she and Kathy first begin to play together. Kathy remembers an event when she is playing in a sandbox with other girls. Ruth approaches them and tells the other girls off, then inviting Kathy to go with her to ride her imaginary horses. It is clear that Ruth has created an elaborate fantasy world with very precise methods of interacting with each of her horses, and although at first Kathy seems to get the hang of it, Ruth then turns on her angrily because of how Kathy is mistreating these animals, and tells Kathy to put the horses away.

What is key to realise is the way that this tells us a lot about the kind of character that Ruth is, and in particular the dominant personality that she is. This of course is very important when we think about how she relates with Kathy. From early on, Kathy shows herself a weak character compared to Ruth, who goes along with Ruth and is swept away by her strong character and need for control. We can therefore partly understand why Kathy never says anything about Ruth and Tommy, even when her own feelings are so much stronger for Tommy that Ruth's feelings are.

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