The Memory Police

by

Yoko Ogawa

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The Memory Police Character Analysis

The Memory Police function as a unified entity, even though they are made up of many men. They are a relatively new, shadowy, and repressive arm of the state government whose main goal is to destroy objects that are “disappeared” and to hunt down anyone who does not forget disappeared things. Early in the story, the Memory Police summon the unnamed narrator’s mother to a government location—she dies a week later, and most people in the story believe that the Memory Police murdered her. The Memory Police wear dark green, very well-made coats and have heavy snow boots—luxuries that no civilian on the island seems to have access to. They also eat decadent food and seem well-prepared to deal with difficult disappearances, meaning that they have advanced resources and money. When they first barge into the narrator’s house in the beginning of the story looking to get into her father’s office, they appear to “know exactly where they are going,” suggesting they have unexplained methods of surveillance. Despite their total dominance throughout most of the novel, the end of the story suggests that even they end up disappearing, since R leaves the hidden room seeming unafraid of being caught.

The Memory Police Quotes in The Memory Police

The The Memory Police quotes below are all either spoken by The Memory Police or refer to The Memory Police . 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:
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 15  Quotes

“You’ll forget you ever had a voice,” he continued. “You may find it annoying at first, until you get used to it. You’ll move your lips as you just did, go looking for a typewriter, a notepad. But soon enough you’ll see how pointless it is. You have no need to talk, no need to utter a single word. There’s nothing to worry about, nothing to fear. Then, at last, you’ll be all mine.”

Related Characters: The Typing Teacher (speaker), The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), The Woman, The Memory Police
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17  Quotes

Just then, three shadows emerged from the house to the east of mine. It was too dark to distinguish their features, but they walked wearily through the snow, backs bent, the Memory Police pushing them from behind, the light glinting cruelly off their guns.

Snatches of my neighbors’ voices could be heard in the dark.

“I had no idea they were hiding people in there,” said the former hatmaker. “Who would have thought it?”

“Seems as though both the husband and wife were in a secret group that help folks like that.”

“I guess that’s why they didn’t get to know anyone in the neighborhood.”

“Look at him. He’s just a child.”

Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

“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 22  Quotes

I’d heard rumors that people who had been hiding were forced to wander the streets when their homes were destroyed by the earthquake or the fires that followed it. And that the Memory Police had been rounding them up and taking them into custody one after the other. But I had no way to know whether the Inui family had actually been in that truck or not. All I could do was pray that someone had continued to cut the little boy’s fingernails and that the blue gloves were still protecting him.

Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Memory Police Character Timeline in The Memory Police

The timeline below shows where the character The Memory Police appears in The Memory Police. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...day after the birds’ disappearance, there’s an unexpected, violent ring on the narrator’s doorbell. The Memory Police —the feared arm of the state that enforces “disappearances”—are at her home, and they demand... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The Memory Police then storm into the narrator’s father’s office, seeming to know exactly how to get through... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
After an hour, the Memory Police leave with 10 bags full of the narrator’s father’s old papers. She feels like this... (full context)
Chapter 3 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...man. On the way home, she likes to walk by the observatory, even though the Memory Police have “done their work” there and left it in ruins. As the narrator makes her... (full context)
Chapter 4 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
That Wednesday, the narrator has an “encounter” with the Memory Police . She’s seen them three other times this month and believes that they are growing... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Soon, the Memory Police emerge from the building with two middle-aged men, a woman in her thirties, and a... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The Memory Police load the people into one of their vans. The youngest girl (who is at the... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Once the Memory Police are gone, it takes a moment for the people on the street to continue what... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...house, she tells her editor, R, that she saw something horrible. He immediately guesses the Memory Police , and she says that she thinks they’re getting worse. R agrees that they’re awful,... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...what a safe house means, but she gets nervous that there could be plain clothes Memory Police officers listening. However, there are only three other people in the lobby, so R explains... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...conversation trickles off. Eventually, the narrator says that she always found it strange that the Memory Police can tell who these people are—those who are immune to the disappearances. Aesthetically, they seem... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
R continues that he’s heard a rumor about how the Memory Police may soon be able to test people’s genes to tell the difference, and that they... (full context)
Chapter 5 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...Inui says that “it finally arrived” and explains that he’s received a summons from the Memory Police : they want him at their genetic analysis center. He’s been “dismissed” from his job... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...mother’s death, which happened when she was much younger. No one had heard of the Memory Police at that time, so her mother and father hadn’t been particularly worried when a summons... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...received as the same—even the same paper and font. If he refuses the summons, the Memory Police will take him away by force. He says he’ll never work for them. Though he... (full context)
Chapter 6 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 8 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...had a chance to dispose of everything right after she got her summons from the Memory Police —before she’d gone away. (full context)
Chapter 9 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 10 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...says that no one knows what will happen in the future, and that even the Memory Police may disappear. (full context)
Chapter 13 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...on the island for the first time in a long time. It collects everywhere. The Memory Police patrol the town in extremely elegant clothing (soft-looking coats with green-dyed fur trim). These coats... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The Memory Police begin to search houses without any particular reason—showing up on a block, surrounding the houses,... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
One day, without warning, the Memory Police take the old man. The narrator opens the trapdoor of the secret room and desperately... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
R concludes that the old man must have been taken for something unrelated, since the Memory Police often round up people just to try and collect information. The narrator hopes nothing horrible... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
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 can get and to help the old man if... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...inside the building, the narrator is in a large, dimly lit hall. There are more Memory Police officers inside, marching across the room. The narrator hears no voices, no laughter—just boots clacking... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The narrator tries to argue with the Memory Police officer, determined to figure out where the old man is, but the officer says it’s... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...wearing medals on his chest, and the narrator figures he must be high-ranking in the Memory Police . (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...inside each person’s heart to figure out what they’ve forgotten—they do “extremely delicate work.” The Memory Police must work in secret, then, to protect themselves. (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...that coming here might have been a mistake, because the more information she gives the Memory Police , the closer they will be to R. Still, she decides that she must not... (full context)
Chapter 14 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Three days later, the Memory Police release the old man, and the narrator finds him on the ferry in his room.... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The narrator asks the old man about what happened while the Memory Police had him. He says not to worry about R, since they captured him (the old... (full context)
Chapter 17 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...the three now hear pounding at the door. The narrator whispers that it is the Memory Police . The front door is locked, and the old man decides that it is better... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The Memory Police are indeed at the narrator’s front door. They tell her and the old man to... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The Memory Police are brusque and systematic. Without “any trace of emotion,” they begin searching the rooms of... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The Memory Police ask the old man why he is there, and he replies that he’s been doing... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
The Memory Police then move upstairs. Though there are fewer rooms upstairs, they seem to search more thoroughly.... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...off the rug, even though she knows this might draw attention to it. When a Memory Police guard says, “what’s this?” she thinks he must be asking about the rug. (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...to calmly say that she’d forgotten it was there because she hardly used it. The Memory Police guard flips through it and tells her that she should have gotten rid of it,... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
People from the neighborhood look outside to watch the Memory Police leave. The narrator notices three figures come out of the house east of hers. She... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...than she ever has in her life. She knows she should be happy that the Memory Police didn’t find anything, but she seems to be overcome with emotion. She doesn’t even know... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...her. The narrator thinks how, sitting there in the quiet, it feels surreal that the Memory Police rang the doorbell only an hour ago. In fact, everything from that night feels like... (full context)
Chapter 18 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
A little while after the Memory Police ’s raid on her house, the reality of what happened that night sinks in for... (full context)
Chapter 19 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...head. The narrator says to the old man that she should get down, otherwise the Memory Police will take her. He replies that it’s too late, and guards begin to pull the... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
...the street saying that the area will likely be turned into a headquarters for the Memory Police one day. (full context)
Chapter 21 
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...crumbled, and there are fires burning. It starts to snow as emergency vehicles and the Memory Police ’s trucks drive through the town. The old man and the narrator hurry to the... (full context)
Chapter 22 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...to the young son. She is running an errand when she sees one of the Memory Police ’s trucks. Poking out from behind the canvas of the truck is the same pair... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...narrator’s mother hid the objects inside the sculptures after she received the summons from the Memory Police but before she went away. He identifies one of the things as a ferry ticket.... (full context)
Chapter 23 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...moss covering the walls. The old man and the narrator take a brief rest (the Memory Police will know if they are out late), then set to work pulling back boards to... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...man realize that everyone there is very anxious. The old man figures out that the Memory Police are checking people’s bags. He quietly tells the narrator that they must remain calm and... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...take. He says that he is the person who supplies the dining hall at the Memory Police headquarters, and he starts flashing his paperwork to the guards. If he’s late, he’ll have... (full context)
Chapter 24 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...so. Their top concerns are what they’ll have for their next dinner and when the Memory Police will come back. (full context)
Chapter 25 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
As the townspeople wonder how they will get rid of their left legs, the Memory Police suddenly come around the corner. Unlike the townspeople, they appear to be walking with perfect... (full context)
Chapter 26 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...without their left legs, and they develop a new kind of balance and rhythm. The Memory Police take advantage of the fact that this disappearance is harder to fake than others, so... (full context)
Chapter 28 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...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... (full context)