The Memory Police

by

Yoko Ogawa

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The Memory Police: Chapter 12  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The woman was surprised when her lover, the typing teacher, first showed up to teach typing class, since he was a young man in well-cut clothing. She didn’t find him classically handsome, but the strength of his features moved her. He used to give the students in his classes timed typing tests, which she admits she was not very good at—she was particularly bothered by the odd calm that set in in the moments just before a test was administered, since this made her nervous, and she would always mess up. In the time she’s known him—whether in class or outside of it, even now that they’ve started a relationship—she has never actually seen him type.
Though the narrator’s story still seems relatively pleasant, there now seem to be cues that something is wrong. First, the woman says that she used to be so nervous before timed typing tests, which show that she was anxious in the presence of her teacher. Second, it’s very strange that she’s never seen her typing teacher type, which suggests he might have some sinister secret. These components of the narrator’s manuscript don’t add up to much just yet, but likely speak to her growing anxiety about life on the island.
Themes
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
The woman recounts the class that she and the teacher first got close. It was a stormy day, and she was the only student who made it in. She was typing up a manual, and he was standing behind her, watching her. As she made a mistake, he stood over her and held her arms and hands into place on the typewriter. She was out of breath at the intensity of him holding her, as though she was “locked inside the typewriter.”
The woman feeling as though she is “locked inside the typewriter” foreshadows how a part of her will, soon, be locked away. The teacher’s intensity is also much more unnerving than it was earlier in the manuscript, showing that the narrator must be feeling a lot of pressure and is working through it in her writing. As always, this shows how the narrator processes what is going on in her life with her writing.
Themes
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Quotes
Ever since the narrator got a new editor, she’s shown R all of her work before handing it to the other man. Her editing sessions with R are intimate—since he can no longer mark up the manuscript, they carefully go over everything together in the secret room, sitting next to each other on the bed. Editing also helps R keep his mind busy, though he eventually asks the narrator to find him other work to do, too. The narrator says that that’s an excellent idea because she has lots of work to give him, so it will be like “killing two creatures with one stone.” She gives him menial tasks—like adding page numbers to her manuscript—that the happily takes to. They begin to settle into a relatively safe and comfortable routine.
The fact that the narrator and R have to go over her manuscript together on the same bed show that their personal and professional lives have completely overlapped. The narrator clearly only trusts R with her manuscript, since she makes sure he sees it before the new editor—this shows how important she considers her work and how seriously she takes R’s opinions. It’s also noteworthy that the narrator tries to use a common expression—killing two birds with one stone—but can’t, since she’s forgotten the word “bird.” This doesn’t move the plot forward, but it does remind the reader how the consequences of disappearances can pop up at any moment.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Yet, despite the satisfaction inside their home, the outside world is in decline. Photographs, as well as different kinds of fruits, have been disappeared. The day photographs disappeared, R pleaded with the narrator not to burn them. He told her that they were valuable since they sustain memory, and that although they were only pieces of paper, they “captured something profound.” But the narrator responded that even though she had enjoyed photographs and knew they allowed her wonderful memories, it was simply time for them to go—she did not have the strength to resist a disappearance. R begged her to keep them even if she couldn’t resist forgetting what they were, but she said there was no point. The narrator told R that he could not understand. He gave in, and she burned the photographs.
Photographs are one of the most consequential disappearances of late, since photographs themselves are a way to keep memories alive. This means that the people on the island lose not only an object, but also an important way to protect against forgetting. R’s attempts to have the narrator keep a few photographs shows that he wants her to fight against what is happening to her mind, but she doesn’t—this remains a common tension between the two throughout the book.
Themes
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Quotes
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