The Memory Police

by

Yoko Ogawa

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The Memory Police: Chapter 26  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As time goes by, the people on the island adjust to living without their left legs, and they develop a new kind of balance and rhythm. The Memory Police take advantage of the fact that this disappearance is harder to fake than others, so they arrest a slew of new people—that is, the Memory Police arrest the people who know they still have left legs, since these people find it very difficult to hide their certainty that they still have two legs.  When the narrator sees the number of arrests, she’s surprised that there are still so many people who don’t forget. But they are unable to fake forgetting their left legs, so the Memory Police spot them right away.
It is noteworthy that the narrator is surprised by how many people are left on the island who have resisted the disappearances. This suggests that there is a larger resistance happening than she imagined, which shows how forgetting is not as inevitable as the narrator thinks. The fact that the Memory Police use this disturbing turn of events (the disappearance of a body part) to reinforce their authority over the people shows that they have very little mercy or sympathy and that they are interested in power over all else.
Themes
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The narrator continues writing. She does not feel as motivated as she did before novels disappeared, but she is able to start remembering the outline of her manuscript. Still, it is an exhausting task. The narrator also takes walks by the ocean and looks out to where the boat used to be—it is not yet completely underwater, but she thinks it will be soon. She remembers her last conversation with the old man and all the things the two of them did together, and she wonders if she will always remember those moments. When the last of the ferry no longer visible, the narrator’s “empty” heart aches as she wonders whether she’ll forget the old man.
With the loss of the old man, the narrator really leans into her fate and no longer assumes she will be able to resist disappearances in the end. Her lack of motivation to write shows the dwindling of her identity. The fact that the narrator is convinced that her heart is “empty” shows that she has lost most of her hope for the future.  
Themes
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Eventually, right arms disappear. This time, the townspeople are not surprised—this was bound to happen. They even think that body part disappearances are more peaceful than when other things disappear, because there are no burning bonfires or objects floating down the river. There are “subtle” changes to the narrator’s daily life, but she doesn’t think it’s much of a problem. Now, when she goes to visit R or bring him food, he has to carefully help her up and down the ladder.
The townspeople’s immediate acceptance of the fact that their right arms are gone confirms that resistance on the island is at an all-time low. The narrator saying that her daily changes are “subtle”—even though she can no longer get into the secret room without help—shows how much she is downplaying the seriousness of this disappearance. It feels like, at this point, the people on the island would accept just about anything as their fate.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Quotes
The narrator tells R that one day, she won’t be able to get in and out of the room. R says that he’ll carry her, “like a princess.” The narrator asks how he’ll be able to hold something that’s gone, but R responds that he can touch any part of the narrator he wants, because she is all still there. The narrator disagrees, saying that her body will disappear little by little. They go back and forth about whether or not the narrator’s body really exists at all anymore.
The latest disappearances really isolate the narrator, since she and R can no longer agree on something simple: whether or not the narrator’s body is all there. This difference of opinion creates an unsolvable distance between them, even though R wants to help as much as he can and says he’ll hold her “like a princess.” At this stage in their relationship, it’s clear that they both care for each other so much, but the difference in how they see the world might be too significant to overcome.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
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The narrator says that her heart is chilling and hard and will certainly shatter like ice, whereas R’s heart is warm and full. R says that maybe the narrator can stay in this room, preserved just like all of the other objects that have been disappeared. She says that she’s afraid—not of disappearing, but of leaving R. He tells her that he will keep her safe.
R remains optimistic and suggests that there are ways for the narrator to resist the weakening in her heart. However, again, the narrator’s belief that her heart is cold and completely different from R’s shows how isolated she has become because of the many things she has forgotten.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon