Chapter 4 Summary

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In her present-day circumstances, Kathy tries to sort out her thoughts on her past at Hailsham because by the end of the year she will no longer be a carer. She reflects that much of what happened to her, Tommy, and Ruth was a result of their childhood experiences at Hailsham. She first considers Madame and the Gallery.

After their encounter with Madame, the girls are reluctant to discuss Madame, but the Gallery still comes up now and then. The Gallery has always been a taboo subject, but its impact on the exchange makes it a more public topic. In the exchange, Hailsham students can earn tokens in exchange for their artwork. However, when Madame takes work for the Gallery, the students lose tokens. These tokens are especially important because they can be used to obtain objects from the “outside” at “sales.” Tommy’s blue shirt from the first chapter was bought at one of these sales. The token issue becomes so controversial that the head guardian, Miss Emily, becomes involved. She rules that students will receive tokens when their work is taken for the Gallery, but they will not receive too many because having work selected for the Gallery is a great honor. When asked to explain why the Gallery is so important, Miss Lucy responds that she cannot explain to the students but hopes they will learn when they are older.

Kathy next reflects on Miss Emily, the head guardian. Miss Emily is a powerful force in the school. She addresses the students during assemblies. Although Miss Emily rarely handed out detentions or other punishments, students hated it when she caught them making mischief. Perhaps one reason for this is that Miss Emily would often speak aloud to herself about what she would do with the students. Kathy once caught Miss Emily talking to herself in a classroom.

Finally, Kathy reflects on her earliest memory of Ruth. She is young and is playing in an overcrowded sandbox with other girls. Ruth approaches them and berates the other girls. Then she invites Kathy to ride her imaginary horses. Ruth has strict instructions about how to respond to each of her horses, and although Kathy at first seems to be doing quite well, Ruth soon turns angry at how Kathy is treating the animals. She has Kathy put the horses away. Then she suddenly asks whether Kathy likes Miss Geraldine. Although this is something Kathy has never considered, she answers that Miss Geraldine is her favorite guardian. Ruth decides to make Kathy one of Miss Geraldine’s secret guards, though what that means is not immediately explained.

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