The Memory Police

by

Yoko Ogawa

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The Memory Police: Chapter 8  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The woman explains that it’s been three months since she lost her voice. To communicate with her lover, the typing teacher, she types everything. Even when they have sex, the typewriter is on the bed. It was hard for her at first, going mute, but she became accustomed to it. One day, her lover asks her what she’d like for her birthday, and she says an ink ribbon. He says that that’s not very romantic, but she says that she worries they'll disappear, and she won’t be able to communicate with him anymore. He says he’ll go to the store and buy all the ink ribbons they have.
Despite the protagonist of the narrator’s manuscript losing her voice, the story remains fairly cheerful, which shows that the narrator herself may be hopeful the island will be able to one day recover from the disappearances. The typewriter, within the manuscript, is very important to the woman because it is the way that she can share her thoughts even without a voice. Since a typewriter is usually a way to write down stories, its importance in the manuscript emphasizes the larger narrative’s belief that stories are critical to connection.
Themes
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
The woman remembers the first time the typing teacher showed her how to change an ink ribbon and how impressive it was watching him demonstrate it for the class. His hands were deft and beautiful while he did it. Though she was never able to change the ribbon in class, she’s since learned to do it even quicker than he can. Since she’s lost her voice, she never throws away any of the old ribbons.
The woman in the narrator’s story seems to understand how people can attach memory or feeling to objects, since she never throws away the old ribbons. This connects to the larger narrative because people throw away things as soon as they are “disappeared,” which isolates them from their emotions. The woman being unable to throw out the typewriting ribbon suggests that the narrator might not fully accept the disappearances, even as she is affected by them and complies with them.
Themes
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
The narrator invites R to her house to show him what she wrote. He shows great consideration looking over and editing her manuscript, and she is nervous that the work is not good enough. They take a break, and the narrator serves tea. R comments on a photograph of the narrator’s mother on the wall, saying that she was very beautiful, and that the narrator looks a lot like her.
The narrator’s manuscript is an important part of her relationship to R, which proves how storytelling can connect people. R’s careful consideration of the manuscript shows that he is a thoughtful person, and this, again, attracts the narrator on a personal (not just professional) level. Her worry that her manuscript won’t be good enough shows that she really values what R thinks. R commenting that the narrator’s mother was beautiful and saying that they look alike is a sly compliment, which shows that maybe he is developing feelings for the narrator that go beyond work.
Themes
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
After discussing the manuscript, R and the narrator sit together without speaking. She realizes that she knows almost nothing about R outside of him being her editor. After a while, R asks if the narrator has any of her mother’s old works. The narrator replies that she has a few, scattered around the studio downstairs. R asks if he can see the studio, and the narrator says she’d be happy to show it to him. R seems quite pleased.
Things are more intimate between R and the narrator because they are not at the office. R’s interest in the narrator’s mother’s work hints that he might have something in common with the narrator’s mother. The night the Inuis came, the narrator admitted that she hadn’t been down in the studio much since her mother died, so it speaks to her affection for R that she’s happy to go down there just because he wants to.
Themes
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
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Once downstairs, the narrator tells R that he can look around and open any drawers or notebooks he’d like. R finds the old cabinet of drawers and asks about it. The narrator explains that when she was little, the cabinet held all sorts of “secret things,” even though it is empty now. She thinks that her mother had a chance to dispose of everything right after she got her summons from the Memory Police—before she’d gone away.
R’s interest in the narrator’s mother and in the cabinet of drawers further indicates that he may have something in common with the narrator’s mother. The narrator speaks very freely to R, which shows that she’s pleased he’s spending time at her home. She also tells him he can look around in whatever drawers and notebooks he likes, which clearly indicates that she trusts him completely at this point, since she knows how dangerous her mother’s secret project was.
Themes
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
The narrator admits that even though she can remember many of the details surrounding her mother’s stories (the sound of her mother’s voice, the smell of the studio, the look on her mother’s face) she has difficulty remembering the objects themselves. R asks her to tell him about the items anyway, even if her memory is faulty. She talks about a precious green stone her mother had had, describing it without naming it. R asks if she might be talking about an “emerald.” The narrator says the word to herself, unsure if it’s right, but she thinks it is.
It's shocking that R might know the name of this disappeared item—a fact that hints that he is hiding something important. It’s also noteworthy that the narrator can remember so many details of her mother’s stories, even if she can’t picture the objects, because it proves how storytelling is a way to combat the disappearances specifically and forgetting more broadly.
Themes
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Quotes
The narrator then asks R how he knew what she was talking about. He doesn’t respond but keeps opening the drawers, stopping at one to say that it used to hold perfume. He asks if the narrator can smell it, and she says no, apologizing. He says she doesn’t have to apologize, since it’s so hard to remember things after they’ve been disappeared. He, however, he remembers everything.
R finally reveals what he’s been hiding—that he, just like the narrator’s mother, is not affected by the disappearances. He remembers everything. This means that he is in danger, but it also means that he has something in common with the narrator’s mother, which the narrator appreciates. It’s sad that the narrator can’t smell perfume, even though her mother’s story about perfume was one of the narrator’s favorites, but it’s important that R knew what it was and identified it.
Themes
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon