I have three things I’d like to throw out there to begin our discussion, but please, feel free to discuss anything that interests you. These are simply the three things that interested me the most.
Let’s begin with Kathy’s narration. First, she’s addressing the reader directly via the second person, which not only creates a much more personal connection between narrator and reader, but it also forces the reader to question their personal role in the narrative. More specifically, to whom does Kathy believe she’s relating her tale? I sincerly doubt she believes she’s addressing a writing instructor from San Antonio, but she rarely clues us in to who she believes to be her intended audience. When discussing her role as a “carer,” more about that later, she states “And I’m a Hailsham student–which is enough by itself sometimes to get people’s backs up. Kathy H., they say, she gets to pick and choose…I’ve heard it said enough, so I’m sure you’ve heard it plenty more, and maybe there’s something in it” (4). It seems as if Kathy believes her audience consists of other “careers,” but she only gives us little hints like that.
Additionally, since Kathy is retelling events long past, she forces us to differentiate between the plot of the text, and the story of her life. The plot of the text begins with Kathy introducing herself to us, and describing her role as a “carer.” But Kathy’s story actually begins during her adolesence at Hailsham. The plot of the narrative moves spatially, and by that I mean that Kathy is less interested in telling us the temporal, sequential events of the story of her life, but more interested in showing us those important spaces in her life, and how those spaces interact with one another. If you’ll notice, Kathy will jump from incident to incident in her life, with little to no concern to the sequence of events. This is what I’m referring to when I mention the spatiality of the text.
The spatial nature of Kathy’s narrative also forces the reader to admit the possibility of her fallibility as a narrator. More than once Kathy mentions the possibility that she might be remembering incidents in her life incorrectly: “all our differences–while they didn’t exactly vanish–seemed not nearly as important as all the other things: like the fact that we’d grown up together at Hailsham, the fact that we knew and remembered things no one else did” (4-5). “This was all a long time ago so I might have some of it wrong” (13). “Not long ago, when Tommy and I were reminiscing about all of this, he thought we’d never really believed in the notion, that it was a joke right from the start. But I’m pretty sure he was wrong there” (66). I’m not suggesting that as readers we should distrust her recollections because she might be lying about them, but I am suggesting that her own doubts about the veracity of her memory should be enough for us to pay very close attention.
The second aspect of the text I want to discuss is the construction of reality and the construction of self. From the comments, I think we’re all a little suspicious of the events and the terms that Kathy is using so casually. “Carer;” “Donor;” “Guardian.” Kathy uses these odd terms far too nonchalantly for us not to feel suspicious. Also, these kids are at best raised, and at worse, farmed, to be nothing more than spare parts? Yeah, something is going on, but I’m not sure what just yet.
But even beyond that, reality seems rather malleable in the text. At the beginning of her narrative, Kathy mentions a donor who knew he wasn’t going to “make it” (5). She tells us that this donor, despite being from Dorset, continually pushed Kathy to describe Hailsham. Kathy claims that “what he wanted was not just to hear about Hailsham, but to remember Hailsham, just like it had been his own childhood.” This act of remaking reality in the mind carries through the text and is practiced by all three of the main characters. Tommy changes the reality of his existence based solely on something said by Miss Lucy. Ruth is able to create a wholly more exciting, and comforting, reality for not only herself, but for a large group of girls. As the narrator of the text, Kathy if capable of the ultimate act of construction, for with without her none of this would exist for us.
The construction of self, or of identify, is also very intriguing. While the guardians do seems to encourage creative indiviuality, at one point Kathy says that “it must have been a Friday or a weekend, because I remember we had on our own clothes,” which leads me to believe that for the most part the children wore uniforms (25-6). While uniforms are quite common in some schools, they aren’t exactly paragons of individual expression. As a means to create an identity for themselves, the children at Hailsham participated in “exchanges” and “sales.” The exchanges were the times when the children bought each other’s artwork, in effect creating an identity for themselves through the creations of their fellow students. Tommy broke the cycle of this creation because of his poor artistic ability, and for that the students tormented him relentlessly.
And like Tank, the atmosphere of Hailsham also reminds me of The Battle School in “Ender’s Game.” I keep waiting for the big reveal of what Hailsham really is. Maybe in Section two, huh?
The last thing that I wanted to mention was free will. Do the Hailsham students not have it, or do they only think that they don’t? They are called “donors,” a word which implies choice, but when Miss Lucy goes a little ape-shit and decides to let the Hailsham students in on their future, she very plainly states that they “were brought into this world for a purpose, and your futures, all of them, have been decided” (81). This presents two options: 1) The students were designed for a certain future, but their design doesn’t preclude choice; 2) Miss Lucy spoke literally, and not matter what the students choose, their fates have already been decided.
I’m not a big fan of the whole written fate thing, but we’ll see how it goes.
I have a feeling that things are going to change drastically in the upcoming sections. Let me know what you think about my ramblings, and in the following days I’ll assign the next section.