The Memory Police

by

Yoko Ogawa

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R is a literary editor who works with the unnamed narrator’s manuscripts. He has a wife—and, eventually, a baby son—but for the majority of the novel, he lives in the narrator’s home in a room hidden away from the Memory Police. R is part of a minority of people on the unnamed island where the story takes place who do not forget objects after a “disappearance.” This puts him in danger, since the Memory Police hunt down anyone who remembers things, so R takes the shelter offered to him by the narrator and the old man and moves into a hidden room in the narrator’s home. R is a slightly removed and unreadable character at first, but he becomes more animated as the story progresses and he tries to help the narrator and the old man keep or retrieve their memories of disappeared objects. He develops deep feelings for the narrator during the time that she cares for him while he lives hidden in her home, and they often spend nights lying next to each other and talking on the small bed in the hidden room. One night, they share a kiss, and by the end of the story R seems to be as in love with the narrator as she is with him. R’s ultimate fate is unknown, but the story suggests that he might fare the best out of all of the characters, since, on the last page, he finally leaves the secret room and goes out into the world.

R Quotes in The Memory Police

The The Memory Police quotes below are all either spoken by R or refer to R. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
).
Chapter 4  Quotes

“But why do they take people away? They haven’t don’t anything wrong.”

“The island is run by men who are determined to see things disappear. From their point of view, anything that fails to vanish when they say it should is inconceivable. So they force it to disappear with their own hands.”

“Do you think my mother was killed?” I knew it was pointless to ask R, but the question slipped out.

“She was definitely under observation, being studied.” R chose his words carefully.

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), R (speaker), The Narrator’s Mother, The Memory Police
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

“It seems strange that you can still create something totally new like this—just from words—on an island where everything else is disappearing,” he said, brushing a bit of dirt from one of the pages as though he were caressing something precious.

I realized that we were thinking the same thing. As we looked into each other’s eyes, I felt, once again, the anxiety that had taken root in our hearts a long time ago.

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), R (speaker)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8  Quotes

“Sometimes I try to remember—those were precious moments with my mother—but I can’t recall the objects. My mother’s expression, the sound of her voice, the smell of the basement air—I can remember all that perfectly. But the things in the drawers are vague, as though those memories, and those alone, have dissolved.”

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), The Narrator’s Mother, R
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10  Quotes

R let out a little gasp of surprise as I rolled up the carpet and lifted the trapdoor.

“Like a cave floating in the sky,” he murmured.

“It’s a bit tight, I know, but at least you’ll be safe here. No one can see you from outside, and there’s not much chance of them hearing you either.”

Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11  Quotes

“Memories don’t just pile up—they also change over time. And sometimes they fade of their own accord. Though the process, for me, is quite different from what happens to the rest of you when something disappears from the island.”

“Different how?” I asked […]

“My memories don’t feel like they’ve been pulled up by the root. Even if they fade, something remains. Like tiny seeds that might germinate again if the rain falls.”

Related Characters: R (speaker), The Unnamed Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12  Quotes

In this way we managed to live in relative security. Everything went according to plan, and we seemed to have solutions for any problems that did occur. The old man did much to help us, and R did his best to adjust quickly to the secret room.

But quite apart from the small satisfactions we enjoyed, the world outside was deteriorating day by day. The disappearances, which had slowed down after the roses, returned with two in quick succession: first, photographs, and then fruits of all sorts.

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), R, The Old Man
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13  Quotes

“Everything outside is completely different from when you came here. The snow has changed everything.”

“Changed how?”

“Well, it’s difficult to describe. For one thing, the world is completely buried. The snow is so deep that the sun barely starts to melt it when it does come out. It rounds everything, makes it look lumpy, and it somehow makes everything seem much smaller—the sky and sea, the hills and the forest and the river. And we all go around with our shoulders hunched over.”

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), R (speaker), The Old Man
Related Symbols: Snow
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14  Quotes

I watched him from behind for a few moments. Was it an illusion, or had his body actually begun to shrink since he’d hidden himself away here? He had definitely grown pale, without any contact with sunlight, and his appetite was poor, so he’d lost weight, but what I sensed was not that sort of tangible change but some more abstract transformation. Every time I saw him, I could feel the outline of his body blurring, his blood thinning, his muscles withering.

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), R
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17  Quotes

“I think all this crying must be proof that my heart is so weak that I don’t know how to help myself.”

“But I’d say it’s just the opposite. Your heart is doing everything it can to preserve its existence. No matter how many memories these men take away, they’ll never reduce it to nothing.”

“I hope that’s true.”

I looked at R. I needed only to lean slightly in his direction for us to be touching. He raised his hand and brushed away a tear at the corner of my eye with his fingers.

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), R (speaker), The Memory Police , The Old Man
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19  Quotes

Needless to say, R was violently opposed to losing our collection of novels.

“You’ve got to bring them all here,” he said, “including your manuscript.”

If I do, the room will be buried in books, with no place for you to live.” I shook my head.

“Don’t worry about that, I don’t need much space. If we hide them here, they’ll never find them.”

“But what happens to them? What’s the point of storing away books that have disappeared?”

He sighed and pressed his fingers to his temples—as he always did when we talked about the disappearances. Try as we might to understand each other, nothing changed for either of us. The more we talked, the sadder we became.

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), R (speaker)
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20  Quotes

When we’d finished eating, the old man went to find the music box hidden in the bathroom. He set it on the table and we listened together. As always, it faithfully repeated its tune, over and over. We stopped chatting, sat up straight, and closed our eyes. I had no idea where or how one was supposed to listen to a music box, but I had decided arbitrarily that closing my eyes would enhance the effect R had hoped it would induce in us.

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), The Old Man, R
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25  Quotes

“Even if the whole island disappears, this room will still be here,” R said. His tone was even and calm, filled with love, as though he were reading an inscription engraved on a stone monument. “Don’t we have all the memories preserved here in this room? The emerald, the map, the photograph, the harmonica, the novel—everything. This is the very bottom of the mind’s swamp, the place where memories come to rest.”

Related Characters: R (speaker), The Unnamed Narrator
Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 28  Quotes

For a very long time, he sat staring at the void in his palms. When at last he had convinced himself that there was nothing left, he let his arms drop wearily. Then he climbed the ladder one rung at a time, lifted the trapdoor, and went out into the world. Sunlight came streaming in for one moment but vanished again as the door creaked shut. The faint sound of the rug being rolled out on the floor came to me from above.

Closed in the hidden room, I continued to disappear.

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), R
Page Number: 269
Explanation and Analysis:
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R Character Timeline in The Memory Police

The timeline below shows where the character R appears in The Memory Police. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
When the narrator arrives at the publishing house, she tells her editor, R, that she saw something horrible. He immediately guesses the Memory Police, and she says that... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...Memory Police officers listening. However, there are only three other people in the lobby, so R explains that there is an underground network of citizens building rooms in their homes to... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...wonders why it isn’t easier to blend in with the rest of the population. But R says that it must be hard to suppress all those memories. If it were so... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
R continues that he’s heard a rumor about how the Memory Police may soon be able... (full context)
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
R then holds the narrator’s manuscript and muses about how odd it is to still be... (full context)
Chapter 5 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...to help detect those people who can retain their memory, and the narrator remembers what R told her about genetic testing. (full context)
Chapter 6 
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 8 
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... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
After discussing the manuscript, R and the narrator sit together without speaking. She realizes that she knows almost nothing about... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
The narrator then asks R how he knew what she was talking about. He doesn’t respond but keeps opening the... (full context)
Chapter 9 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Chapter 10 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
A few days later, in the office of the publishing house, the narrator tells R that she has a place for him to hide. She tells him to hurry and... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
The narrator continues insisting that this is the best plan for everyone. R thinks about it, admitting that the narrator seems to have gotten into a dangerous situation... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...slow motion. She can’t see anything outside except sheets of rain. The old man and R (finally) arrive after 8:45, soaking wet. The old man tells the narrator that it all... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
R is surprised that the hiding space is in the narrator’s house. She tells him that... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
The old man and the narrator leave R to get situated, and the narrator tells R she’ll bring him his lunch in a... (full context)
Chapter 11 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
...hear any noise coming from the hideaway, she realizes that this lack of noise from R makes her “all the more conscious” that he is there. Eventually, though, they settle into... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Although R is very grateful, it’s clear to the narrator that he’s not totally comfortable in the... (full context)
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
...plain and small, and he asks the narrator when she’ll be finished with her novel—something R never did. After they talk about her manuscript, she casually asks this man if he... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The narrator and the old man figure out how to communicate with R’s wife, who is now living with her parents while she waits to give birth. R’s... (full context)
Chapter 12 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Ever since the narrator got a new editor, she’s shown R all of her work before handing it to the other man. Her editing sessions with... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...Photographs, as well as different kinds of fruits, have been disappeared. The day photographs disappeared, R pleaded with the narrator not to burn them. He told her that they were valuable... (full context)
Chapter 13 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...next. Even the lightest sounds wake the narrator up at night, as she’s worried for R. People have taken to staying in their homes, as though “the snow had frozen their... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...man. The narrator opens the trapdoor of the secret room and desperately calls out to R. She says that the Memory Police must have learned something. She is shaking so hard... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
R concludes that the old man must have been taken for something unrelated, since the Memory... (full context)
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Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The next day, without telling R, the narrator decides she’ll go to the Memory Police headquarters. She wants any information she... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...because the more information she gives the Memory Police, the closer they will be to R. Still, she decides that she must not hesitate—since they likely know most of this information... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...staring out the window for a while, the narrator uses the makeshift intercom to ask R if he is asleep. She tells him that it’s snowing, and he says it’s hard... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
The narrator then tells R about how, when she was younger, “the mystery of sleep” fascinated her—she thought that in... (full context)
Chapter 14 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...about what happened while the Memory Police had him. He says not to worry about R, since they captured him (the old man) for an unrelated “smuggling incident.” Apparently, recently, a... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Not long after the old man’s return, R’s wife gives birth to their baby boy. The narrator facilitates the communication between R and... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
When the narrator opens the trap door to give R his wife’s package, she notes that his body seems smaller than it used to, like... (full context)
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Spontaneously, the narrator starts to tell R a story she once heard about very wealthy families who would have servants carefully polish... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The narrator then gives R the box from his wife, and he sits quietly as he looks at the picture... (full context)
Chapter 16 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...narrator feels sure that it is his birthday, and she says a celebration will do R some good. The narrator has to go to the market once a day for a... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...and fish, which are decorated with wildflowers and herbs. The narrator, the old man, and R have to squeeze to fit at the table—but once they’re seated, they toast with wine.... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The party continues merrily. For a while, the narrator, the old man, and R are almost able to forget their circumstances. However, any time one of them lets out... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Once they finish dinner and dessert, the narrator and R take out their presents. The narrator gives the old man a porcelain shaving set, and... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The narrator tries desperately to remember a time when the orugōru existed, at least for R’s sake, but she cannot. R explains that he began to realize he wasn’t affected around... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
The music continues to play. The narrator asks R if he really thinks their hearts are decaying. He says he’s not sure about the... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The narrator comments on how wonderful the party was, and R agrees that it was the best birthday party he can remember. They open the box... (full context)
Chapter 17 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...the sound of the doorbell. The old man puts an arm around her shoulders, and R looks up at the trap door above them. The doorbell continues to ring, and the... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...the crying isn’t relieving tension. It is more that the tears are impossible to stop. R sits next to her, trying to comfort her. She tells him that for once, she’s... (full context)
...thinks she can smell the slightest hint of the old man’s birthday cake from earlier. R tells the narrator that she can stay in the room as long as she’d like.... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
R wipes a tear from the narrator’s face and holds her. The narrator thinks how, sitting... (full context)
Chapter 18 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
...the narrator. She has not been down to the secret room since that night—she leaves R his food at the top of the ladder. She seems to have given up any... (full context)
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
...picks up her side of the intercom connected to the secret room and listens to R washing himself. She can almost visualize the scene in the room below her just by... (full context)
Chapter 19 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...narrator knows that there is no way she could have hidden this woman without putting R in danger, but she still thinks about her throughout the next week. A week later,... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...they are not intrusive. Every sound scares her, since she thinks it could give away R and the secret room. Nothing happens, though, and a few days after the couple leaves,... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...she had become accustomed to them, but this disappearance is tricky. This time, novels disappear. R is “violently” opposed to the narrator getting rid of all of her novels. He pleads... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
R tries to remind the narrator that she writes novels, but this seems to hardly register... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...narrator tells the old man she is going to try and write in secret, because R told her this was possible. The old man looks thoughtful and admits that even though... (full context)
Chapter 20 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Later, when the narrator reads her manuscript that she keeps in R’s room, she remembers why the word “typist” meant something to her. But though she is... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
R encourages the narrator not to force the memories to return, but rather to slowly “untangle”... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
...up in a novel. People can create things that don’t exist, just with words—that’s why R insists they’re so important. (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
The old man then asks the narrator if she is in love with R. She says she supposes she is. But, she says, she knows he’ll never be able... (full context)
Chapter 21 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
The old man calls down to R, who knocks from his side and says he’s there. Even with R pushing and the... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...With the door open, the old man and the narrator rush down to check on R, whose hair is covered in splinters. In the secret room, in the darkness and among... (full context)
Chapter 22 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Later that night, the narrator is upstairs in the secret room with R and the items. R guesses that the narrator’s mother hid the objects inside the sculptures... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The narrator is out of breath after recounting this memory in full. R insists that the narrator has done very well, that this is a good start to... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Next, R picks up the metal object and brings it to his mouth. The narrator thinks that... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Every now and then, R asks the narrator to play a song so that he can be the audience. She... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
After going over the objects, R and the narrator lay together on the tiny bed in the hidden room. R shares... (full context)
Chapter 24 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Two weeks later, the old man seems like himself again. He, the narrator, and R have still not gone through all of the statues. R waits impatiently to do so,... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...they finish extracting the objects, the narrator and the old man take the items to R on a tray. R is exuberant upon seeing so many disappeared things, and he immediately... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
R says that everyone’s hearts have been “battered” by the disappearances. He makes an impassioned plea—holding... (full context)
Weeks go by, and the narrator’s typing skills improve. The old man gives R a much-needed haircut, and Don the dog has a health scare but recovers. Things are... (full context)
Chapter 25 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
R, of course, is unable to attend the old man’s funeral. The narrator finds that the... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
The narrator tries to keep it together by cooking elaborate meals for herself and R and by focusing hard at work. She takes to tasks around the house with gusto.... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
...she writes a full sentence. It exhausts her. The next day, she shows it to R, who is thrilled. He tells her that this is progress— “her soul is trying to... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Later that night, R massages the narrator’s disappeared leg. He tries to show her that her leg is still... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
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The narrator and R keep talking. She tells R that soon everything will “fall back into place,” meaning that... (full context)
Chapter 26 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
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Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The narrator tells R that one day, she won’t be able to get in and out of the room.... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 28 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
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R tells the narrator he is so pleased she’s finished the manuscript. She tells him that... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)