Chapter 12 Summary

Kathy explains that the twelfth chapter of Never Let Me Go serves as a background to a later trip to Norfolk. The first winter at the Cottages has passed and the Hailsham students seem to be settling into their life there. Ruth and Kathy still visit every night, but one night Ruth shares that two of the veterans, Chrissie and Rodney, think they may have seen a “possible” for Ruth working in an open-plan office in Norfolk.

As with so many concepts at Hailsham, a possible is something every student understands but few feel free to discuss. Kathy explains the theory behind possibles:

Since each of us was copied at some point from a normal person, there must be, for each of us, somewhere out there, a model getting on with his or her life.

It seems quite important that Chrissie and Rodney have found a possible for Ruth. However, the subject remains hazy. For example, they wonder how old a person’s possible would be and what the point is in finding a possible anyway. Kathy explains that for some students

our models were an irrelevance, a technical necessity for bringing us into the world, nothing more than that. It was up to each of us to make of our lives what we could.

Although both Ruth and Kathy claim to subscribe to this view, they are naturally curious. A sighting of a possible is usually ignored, but some sightings are more substantial than others are.

Ruth seems to believe Chrissie and Rodney, but Kathy remains skeptical. Kathy is careful to explain that she does not dislike Chrissie, but she finds some of veteran’s actions disconcerting. In some ways, Chrissie reminds Kathy of a wicked witch, particularly her habit of “jabbing you with a finger” while talking. Her boyfriend, Rodney, is clearly under her thumb, and she seems eager to talk to Ruth and Kathy separately. Finally, she always seems too interested in Hailsham. However, there is more to Kathy’s skepticism than her ambivalence for Chrissie.

Kathy explains that one day while looking at a magazine, she and Ruth se a picture of an open-plan office. Ruth is especially impressed, and when the group discusses their plans for the future, she starts to discuss an office that recalls the advertisement. In fact, some of her language, like “dynamic, go-ahead type,” seems to echo the language of the advertisement. Before long, Chrissie and Rodney seem to have bought into this dream of the future in a beautiful office. Kathy says it becomes Ruth’s “dream future,” and its vision is compelling for the others as well. So when Chrissie and Rodney claim to have seen a possible for Ruth at an open-plan office, Kathy is skeptical. Still, she decides to accompany her friend. At first, it seems like Ruth would prefer to leave without Kathy and Tommy, but in the end all five friends decide to go together.