The Memory Police

by

Yoko Ogawa

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The Memory Police: Chapter 28  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator puts her pencil down lays her head on her desk. She is completely exhausted. Writing with her left hand had been hard, and she’s not sure if this is her best work, but she is glad that she has at least finished the manuscript—the one thing she can leave R. Everyone on the island understood that this is how it would end one day, so one resisted. R is the only one who seemed not to be able to let things go. The narrator thinks that she knew better—try as he might, R would never be able to help her remember the things she’d lost.
The fact that the narrator is so exhausted after writing, which used to be her job and which she used to love, shows how much she has deteriorated over the course of the story. Her happiness in having finished the manuscript suggests that there is some small piece of her former self that remains, because she knows that R will have the story to remember her by. The fact that R is the only one who has successfully resisted the disappearances suggests that, once most people in a society accept something as inevitable, it will most likely come to pass.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
R tells the narrator he is so pleased she’s finished the manuscript. She tells him that she worries it’s not enough, since though she’s finished the story, she is still “losing herself.” She wonders if the story will remain once she’s gone, and R tells her that of course it will, because each word will exist in his heart.
The narrator’s concern about “losing herself” confirms that the disappearances make her feel like someone she doesn’t recognize. Her thoughts about the manuscript lasting after she’s gone prove just how sure she is that everything is going to disappear on the island. That R needs to tell her what she used to understand (how stories can last even if the people who wrote them are gone) shows that the narrator is really a shell of her former self.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
When left legs disappeared, the townspeople temporarily lost their balance, but when their whole bodies disappeared, no one seems to worry. They are lighter now and can move through the air “like clumps of dried grass blown along by the wind.” There is a stillness to the island. The boat completely sinks beneath the sea. A few crops are still able to grow, and some people still knit sweaters, but not much else is created. The snow continues to fall.
The people on the island have accepted disappearances as their inevitable fate, so they no longer resist or even worry about them. Snow continuing to fall symbolizes how people on the island accept that they are disappearing, and they no longer see even the disappearance of their bodies as tragic or upsetting. Comparing the people on the island to “clumps of dried grass blown along by the wind” proves that the people feel they have no agency at all—grass is thin and frail and cannot choose whether or not the wind picks it up and blows it around.
Themes
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The narrator realizes she is happy that the old man died before bodies disappeared. But then she wonders if the order of disappearances makes any difference, since it all goes away eventually.
The narrator’s feelings hint at how the larger society thinks: namely, society thinks that there’s no longer any way to resist, and that everything that happens is inevitable. The narrator seems to have lost her optimism and resigns herself to her fate.
Themes
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
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The narrator keeps up her routine. Now, when she goes to see R, she falls down into the hidden room, and he catches her. They hold each other tightly in the little bed in the secret room, but the narrator knows that the distance between her withered, non-existent body and his—strong and alive—is too great to overcome.
The relationship between R and the narrator is still very tender, even as the narrator withers away. Now, the difference between those who remember and those who don’t is especially pronounced and tangible, since it’s bodies that are affected. This is a way to make literal something the story only hinted at earlier in the book: that memories keep people feeling fully alive.
Themes
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Every part of the narrator’s body disappears eventually. All that is left is her voice. She tells R that it is peaceful without a body, and that he is finally free because the Memory Police have given up. What is the point of searching for people without bodies? He tells her none of it will mean anything without her and reaches out to try to hold her, but he can’t figure out where her voice is.
The narrator’s body is gone, which illustrates the idea that losing memories is the same as losing oneself. There is a discrepancy between what she tells R and what a reader can see: although she seems at peace, it is very disturbing that her body disappears. It is noteworthy, though, that the narrator thinks that even the Memory Police are gone, since maybe this means there is something to look forward to, even if the narrator is not there to see it.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The narrator’s voice starts to disappear. She tells R that when she is gone, he must take care of the room, and that she will live there among all of the objects that have also been disappeared. Then, she says good-bye, and vanishes. R waits in the room a long time, looking at the “void” where the narrator’s voice was. Eventually, he climbs up the ladder and out into the world. 
The narrator can no longer communicate with R, and R feels like she is gone for good. R has not been able to leave the room the entire story, so it's significant that he climbs the ladder and leaves, suggesting that the outside world may be different and that there could be hope for his future after all.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
There, alone in the hidden room, the narrator “continues to disappear.”
The narrator does not meet with a happy ending, instead disappearing completely in the secret room, though the ambiguity surrounding the novel’s highly conceptual premise perhaps leaves room to speculate that something about the narrator’s essence “continues” to linger, even if this just means that her memory lives on in R's mind. Either way, her total disappearance possibly signifies the harsh reality that it’s not easy to escape authoritarian regimes or tragic societal events—and that not everyone makes it out of such situations.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Quotes