The Memory Police

by

Yoko Ogawa

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The Narrator’s Mother Character Analysis

The unnamed narrator’s mother was a sculptor who was part of the minority on the island that does not forget “disappeared” objects. The story heavily implies that the Memory Police killed the narrator’s mother when the narrator was a young girl. A week after complying with a summons from the (then newly-formed) Memory Police, the narrator’s mother died, and although the official cause of death was a heart attack, the narrator feels sure that her mother was killed by the state because she didn’t get rid of the objects that were supposed to be forgotten. The narrator’s mother used to tell the narrator all about disappeared objects, which she kept in a secret, hidden cabinet in her sculpting studio. The narrator loved listening to these stories, even if she couldn’t recognize any of the items. The narrator’s mother also hid disappeared objects in sculptures—some of which the Professor Inui later gives the narrator before he goes into hiding, and some of which the narrator and the old man track down later in the novel. The narrator’s mother is generally regarded as brave by many characters in the story, since she went through impressive efforts to hold onto the memories and objects that the Memory Police tried to eradicate.

The Narrator’s Mother Quotes in The Memory Police

The The Memory Police quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator’s Mother or refer to The Narrator’s Mother. 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 1 Quotes

Ribbon, bell, emerald, stamp. The words that came from my mother’s mouth thrilled me, like the names of little girls from distant countries or new species of plants. As I listened to her talk, it made me happy to imagine a time when all these things had a place on the island.

Yet that was also rather difficult to do. The objects in my palm seemed to cower there, absolutely still, like little animals in hibernation, sending me no signal at all. They often left me with an uncertain feeling, as though I were trying to make images of the could in the sky out of modeling clay. When I stood before the secret drawers, I felt I had to concentrate on each word my mother said.

Related Characters: The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), The Narrator’s Mother
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
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 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:
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The Narrator’s Mother Character Timeline in The Memory Police

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator’s Mother appears in The Memory Police. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
An unnamed narrator sits in her mother’s sculpture studio in the basement of their home on an unidentified island. The mother tells... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The narrator listens to her mother while sitting on a little stool. Her mother, in a soft voice, continues telling her... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The narrator’s mother then leads the narrator to an old cabinet with small drawers, which is situated behind... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Once the narrator chooses, her mother opens the drawer, smiles, and hands the narrator a “kind of fabric called ‘ribbon.’” They... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
The narrator’s favorite story that her mother tells her is about “perfume”—the narrator thinks she is supposed to drink this liquid, but... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...o’clock, the narrator is about to go upstairs to bed. But first, she asks her mother the question that has been on her mind: why does she (the mother) remember all... (full context)
Chapter 2 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Years pass. The narrator’s mother and father have died. The narrator mentions that she might have family living on the... (full context)
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...the narrator’s father’s old papers. She feels like this experience is different than when her mother was taken away—this time, they’ve taken everything they need and will likely not be back.... (full context)
Chapter 4 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...15 years—their appearance coincided with people realizing that there were some people (like the narrator’s mother) who did not lose their memory of things that disappeared. The narrator is on her... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...things stay forgotten. The narrator asks R if he thinks the Memory Police killed her mother, and R answers carefully, not says a definitive yes but admitting that he definitely thinks... (full context)
Chapter 5 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...she realizes that it’s coming from the basement, a place she’s hardly gone since her mother’s death. After locating the key (it’s been so long since she’s been down there that... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
...hesitantly adds that their summons is just like the letter that came for the narrator’s mother. The narrator thinks about her mother’s death, which happened when she was much younger. No... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
A fancy black car picked the narrator’s mother up on the day she left—the narrator remembers her mother waving from the car as... (full context)
Chapter 8 
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance 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... (full context)
Chapter 14 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
...in order to “adapt” to this new way of living. She finds him polishing her mother’s old silver, a task he’s taken to. When he notices her, he explains that it’s... (full context)
Chapter 22 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...excuse to clean up, but she can’t bring herself to throw away any of her mother’s things. One day, the old man finds the sculptures that Professor Inui gave the narrator,... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...upstairs in the secret room with R and the items. R guesses that the narrator’s mother hid the objects inside the sculptures after she received the summons from the Memory Police... (full context)
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, Longevity, and Defiance Theme Icon
...hears memories about disappeared items, but tonight it feels like she is back in her mother’s studio, listening to her mother tell her secret stories. She is content listening to everything... (full context)
Chapter 23 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
The next Sunday, the narrator decides she’ll visit her mother’s old cabin, where her mother used to go to sculpt. It’s nothing fancy, and it’s... (full context)
Chapter 24 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...fragile the objects are or how they should be handled. The narrator realizes that her mother must hidden many, many items, because there are more things than there had been in... (full context)