Winter continues, chilling the air on the island. The Memory Police’s trucks are more prevalent around the city, and their tactics become more brutal. They have been wielding batons, storming into homes searching for anybody who might be hiding and dragging out both the stowaway and the people who hide them. It is becoming difficult to know if a friend or relative has gone into hiding, or if they’ve been taken away. Citizens on the island are becoming accustomed to losing people.
The Memory Police’s growing brutality corresponds with the weakening spirts of the people on the island. This shows how authoritarian regimes reinforce themselves by relying on people to feel too afraid to resist, and to turn neighbors against neighbors. The fact that people are becoming used to losing people shows how they feel their free will is diminishing and are resigning themselves to their fate.
The narrator sits with the old man on the boat. She is about to tell him a secret but says that if he doesn’t want to hear it, he should say so. Even though he doesn’t know what she is going to say, he agrees to hearing the secret and swears he won’t tell anybody. She tells him she needs help hiding her editor, R, whom she trusts with her work more than anybody else. The old man says he will help her, and she clasps his hands in gratitude.
It’s very meaningful that the old man agrees to help the narrator hide R, since he’s taking on a very challenging and dangerous task—and he doesn’t even know R. This shows how strong and important the friendship between the old man and the narrator is. It’s also incredibly meaningful that the narrator decides to find a way to hide R without even telling him—this is how certain she is that he is in danger, and also how precious he is to her.
The narrator and the old man agree that a small, hidden room underneath the narrator’s father’s old office is the best place to hide R. The basement would be more comfortable, but too many people know about it. The pair write down all the things they need to do to renovate the room and make it safe and livable—everything from clearing out the space to installing a toilet. After memorizing the list, they throw it into the fire.
It’s very impressive how quickly the narrator and the old man are able to come up with this plan, suggesting that they already sensed that they’d have to do something like this at some point. They are very organized, and they’re sure to throw their list into the fire, which shows that they know how important it is that no one know what they are working on.
The next day, the narrator and the old man get to work setting up the hideaway. It is a terribly daunting task, because they cannot hire carpenters (the Memory Police have recruited them all), and they have to sneak around even to gather nails and wood. However, the narrator is very impressed by the old man, who is sly and sneaky and seems to be enjoying their risky project. He is incredibly deft at construction and finishes everything, even the new plumbing setup and an intercom system, in four days. Though the space is tight, they’ve managed to make the room a livable hideout for R—who, the narrator understands, will be confined to the space once he arrives.
Again, there is something very impressive about the speed with which the narrator and the old man work, indicating that they knew something like this was coming. It’s lucky that the old man is so resourceful, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to construct the room that they do—this suggests that people in less fortunate circumstances are in even more danger, since the Memory Police is hoarding resources.