The Memory Police

by

Yoko Ogawa

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The Memory Police: Chapter 6  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A woman climbs up a narrow staircase. It reminds her of running up a lighthouse staircase when she was younger. She is climbing this staircase to meet her lover, almost tripping in her excitement. Her lover is a typing teacher—halfway up the staircase, she begins to hear the “click-clacking” of typing. She wonders if her lover is gently correcting his students when they make a mistake, just as he used to correct her…
This is the first time an excerpt from the narrator’s manuscript appears in the book. The woman’s (the story’s protagonist) excitement is optimistic, but the narrowness of the staircase she climbs could be read as foreshadowing something more threatening. The fact that the woman in the narrator’s story is a typist emphasizes the larger narrative’s focus on words and storytelling.
Themes
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
The narrator stops writing and puts down her pencil. The new novel is not going well, and she thinks she is writing in circles. R is constantly asking her how she is doing—she wonders if he means how she is doing emotionally, or with the novel. It is always just with the novel. He tells her she must write with her hand instead of her head, since the hand is where the story comes from. The narrator stops writing for the evening.
This is the first sign of the narrator’s romantic attachment to R, since she wonders if he’s asking her personal questions when they’re really just professional questions. This also shows how he is rather distant, still, even though later their relationship will drastically change. The narrator finds it difficult to write—this is possibly because she’s writing a pleasant story while so many bad things happen on the island, which foreshadows the direction her story will take.
Themes
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Once in bed, the narrator thinks of the Inui family. She has been walking by their old apartment since the night they came to say goodbye, and she can tell that it is empty. But the students on campus continue about their school, and there is already a different name on Inui’s old office door. No one seems to wonder where the professor went—it is as though the family has truly vanished, “melted into thin air.” The narrator worries about the family’s safety.
The fact that no one seems to have noticed Professor Inui’s disappearance on campus shows how numb people are to otherwise significant disappearances. It also shows how effectively the Memory Police can isolate the people on the island from each other. The narrator, though, still feels connected to the Inui family and appears to be the only one grieving their loss, which shows that she might feel things a little bit deeper than the majority of the people on the island.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The next morning, when the narrator wakes up, she knows that something else has “disappeared.” The morning is cold. She makes herself breakfast, trying to figure out what is gone—she’s happy it’s not the food she is eating (buttered rolls, tea, honey). It’s always sad when it’s a food.
The matter-of-fact way that the narrator responds to another disappearance shows how often this has happened in her life. The narrator is relatively relaxed and calm, which shows that, when loss or tragedy is slow or spread out over time, people often choose to cope by downplaying the emotional impact.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
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The narrator goes outside so she can see the river, which is flowing and looks beautiful. She dips her hand in and pulls up rose petals—the entire surface of the river is covered in them. Citizens quietly murmur about how lovely a sight it is. The narrator understands that roses have disappeared and wants to walk up the hill to the rose garden to see if it is already empty. The Memory Police are out “in full force,” because this is a particularly beautiful disappearance. They appear as they always do: “weapons on their hips, faces devoid of expression.”
The beauty of the disappearance of roses momentarily brings the citizens together, since it feels like they can collectively appreciate the immense loss of something so wonderful. The fact that the Memory Police are out “in full force” emphasizes that there is brief solidarity among the people, since the Memory Police are prepared for possible, unusual resistance. The fact that the Memory Police carry weapons and look expressionless underscores that they are an intimidating government entity, and they appear especially inhuman in this moment, since their goal is to make sure people part with something that seems so innocent and pleasurable.
Themes
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The next day, there is not a single rose left in the rose garden. The stems, leaves, and thorns are left, but no roses. Though a few other types of flowers remain, the garden looks hollow and barren without its signature bloom. The narrator realizes that she’s already begun to forget what “this thing called a rose” ever looked like.
The narrator experiences another physical loss, which causes her to lose all emotional connection to this thing (in this case, a rose). This mental loss that accompanies the physical loss shows how objects and memories are closely tied together. The barrenness of the rose garden mirrors the emptying out of people’s hearts, minds, and identity with each disappearance.
Themes
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Quotes