The Memory Police


Yoko Ogawa

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Snow Symbol Analysis

Snow Symbol Icon

In The Memory Police, snow symbolizes emotional numbness to tragic events. On the unnamed island where the novel takes place, the mysterious phenomenon that causes objects to disappear from people’s memories starts off gradually but increases in intensity as the story goes on. When calendars “disappear,” the weather mysteriously freezes—spring never comes, and snow falls continuously on the island. The days get grayer and darker, and the people on the island have to combat worsening conditions with inadequate clothing and resources. Eventually, snow accumulates everywhere. At the same time, larger and more meaningful items disappear (such as roses, novels, and even body parts), and the island’s inhabitants become emotionally numb to the repercussions of living without things they had once enjoyed. By the end, most people on the island are reduced to nothing—all of their body parts have “disappeared”—and snow blankets the island. The uptick in snowfall corresponds with the people’s weaking desire to fight back against the Memory Police or even to question the disappearances themselves. Though there was always a tendency for the people to accept the disappearance without “much fuss,” their resolve still weakens considerably at the same time as snowfall increases. In this way, the omnipresent snow in the later portion of the story represents the weakening of spirit from the citizens of the island and their increasing willingness to accept devastating events.

Snow Quotes in The Memory Police

The The Memory Police quotes below all refer to the symbol of Snow. 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 12  Quotes

The tapping of the key striking the paper was the only sound in the room. Snow had begun to fall again, covering the tracks I had made […] He continued to hold me tighter […] The bell in the clock tower began to chime. Five o’clock. The vibration came from far above, rattling the window glass and passing through our bodies, before being absorbed by the snow below. The only motion was the falling of the snowflakes. I held my breath, unable to move, as though locked inside the typewriter.

Related Characters: The Woman (speaker), The Unnamed Narrator (speaker), The Typing Teacher
Related Symbols: Snow
Page Number: 91
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:
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Snow Symbol Timeline in The Memory Police

The timeline below shows where the symbol Snow appears in The Memory Police. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5 
Memory and Connection  Theme Icon
...together to prepare the ferry for winter. The old man says that although it hasn’t snowed in years, he thinks it might this year. The narrator is excited at the prospect,... (full context)
Chapter 13 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Snow falls on the island for the first time in a long time. It collects everywhere.... (full context)
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...she’s worried for R. People have taken to staying in their homes, as though “the snow had frozen their hearts.” (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...on edge. She thinks she might write, but she can’t put down a single word. Snow falls. After staring out the window for a while, the narrator uses the makeshift intercom... (full context)
Chapter 15 
Loss, Isolation, and Identity Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...bad knees ends up being right, and spring never comes. The island remains buried in snow. (full context)
Chapter 22 
Authoritarianism and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...never quite recovers from the earthquake and tsunami. Debris from homes pile up, and fresh snow covers them. Three days after the ordeal, on a walk near her office, the narrator... (full context)
Chapter 28 
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon grow, and some people still knit sweaters, but not much else is created. The snow continues to fall. (full context)