Unique and Common

I love how unique the style of Shaun Tan’s graphic novel “The Arrival” is even when the ideas about the immigration process are so common. I like the way some of the pages look like part of an old, tattered photo album. It makes me feel like the book could have belonged to my great grandparents and it is now a family heirloom.

Part I of “The Arrival” was saddening because the main character had to leave his wife and daughter behind. There are many objects of sentimental value being shown. The drawing the daughter made touched me especially. I remember how I used to draw a lot when I was little and my drawings are still on my refrigerator.

In Part II, clouds lurk in the distance to foreshadow the hardships that come with immigrating to a new country. Giant statues in boats seem to be welcoming the incoming immigrants. Once the boat docks, screening ensues. Everything seems frustrating and he seems to be incapable of processing most of the things they tell him. In the end, he leaves in a cubicle lifted by a giant balloon. I think this represents how the modes of transportation are unfamiliar and strange. There are signs everywhere but one cannot understand what they’re saying. This implies that he is lost and doesn’t understand the language. In order to find places, he needs to draw pictures of them in order to convey what he wants. Once sheltered, he is homesick and looks into his suitcase and imagines what his family would be doing at that moment.

In the middle of the story, I start wondering about what all the animals are supposed to represent. They look adorable and remind me of the origami he makes, but I don’t understand why everyone seems to have a pet. I’m not even sure how he got his. It just showed up. I also want to know what Tan was trying to say with the dragon hovering over the city and the men sucking people away.

In part V, the man sends a crane and money home. After a year, the man receives a letter from his wife and little girl. They tell him of their arrival to New York. He is overjoyed. In part VI, the family is together again. The man’s wife and daughter have apparently adapted to this new way of life. The man’s daughter helps another immigrant find her way and the cycle starts all over again. I think that’s a great way to end the story because people are always immigrating. In New York, there are always new people who need help with directions. It’s also a comforting ending because it’s saying that everything will work out in the end.

1 thought on “Unique and Common

  1. Nicely stated! I like the way you broke your analysis down according to the four parts in the story. It is important to see that as the man’s story has multiple parts, so do any hardships or struggles in life. We must withstand the problem whatever it may be, however long it may be, and let each part run its course. I do believe that you cannot have a beginning and an end without all of the parts in between.

    I also like your observation of the aesthetic aspect of the book. When I turned to the blank page before part II, I initially thought my copy of the book was ruined! However I soon realized that it was all part of Tan’s plan to create an heirloom, almost like a journal, that was representative of the past. In terms of the pet-like creatures that roam the new world, I too am unsure as to what purpose they serve. Are they really even there? Or are they a representation of the individual’s mind or conscience? Whatever they may be, each person or family had one.

    Yes, the end does serve a purpose in giving hope to those who don’t seem to believe that there is truly a light at the end of the tunnel. I also especially like, as you very well stated, the idea that “the cycle starts all over again.” New York is constantly experiencing an influx of immigrants who are completely lost and unaware of our customs and traditions. We should therefore rise to the occasion and assure them that there is nothing to fear and that help lies around every corner!

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