Chapter 7 Summary
In this chapter, Kathy moves on to her final years at Hailsham. The students are thirteen to sixteen years of age. They have begun to think about their futures and to flirt with each other. These discussions dominate the thoughts of most of the students, but not Kathy’s. She credits her discussion with Tommy by the pond as a marker. After that, she began to question things more directly.
She begins to pay more attention to Miss Lucy. When discussing electric fences that were used in prisoner-of-war camps during the Second World War, the students begin to joke about the fences around Hailsham. They are not electrified, which Miss Lucy points out is “just as well” because “you get terrible accidents sometimes.” Only Kathy wonders what Miss Lucy is talking about.
However, when the students are fifteen and really thinking about what they will do after Hailsham, Miss Lucy offers them a direct statement about their purpose in life. In response to students who want to become famous Hollywood actors, Miss Lucy declares:
Your lives are set out for you. You’ll become adults, then before you’re old, before you’re even middle-aged, you’ll start to donate your vital organs. That’s what each of you was created to do.
In Miss Lucy’s view, the students have all been told this before, but no one has ever told them directly. It seems that Miss Lucy wants to say even more than she has so far, but instead she takes the children outside. Kathy and a few other students can see how troubled Miss Lucy is.
Kathy reflects that the students had indeed been told about donations. For example, when they were taught about sex, they were shown everything about how sex works. This led to a discussion of the difference between the students’ sex lives and the sex lives of people outside. Outside the school, people get into a lot of trouble over their sex lives, and one reason to explain this is that sex can lead to children for outsiders but not for the students. So the students need to be very careful about their sex lives.
The students were introduced to donation at a young age. In fact, they even begin to tease each other about “unzipping” their bodies. At first, Tommy bore the brunt of this joke when the students told him to be careful or he would unzip his arm at the elbow and expose his skeleton. Although Tommy believed this and was troubled for days, he later learned the truth. However, students continue to tease each other and often pretend to unzip their bodies and drop livers on each others’ plates.