“The Arrival” by Shaun Tan tells a fascinating story that many can connect to by painting pictures instead of using words. This book is the proverbial representation of how a picture is worth one thousand words. I felt as if was in this foreign, yet magical world while I was reading. More importantly, this is a classic tale of what almost every immigrant goes through as they come to America.
Many immigrants leave their home country in search for a better life for their family, but they also face many challenges, and some they can’t overcome alone. It’s natural for the protagonist’s wife and daughter to cry during the beginning when the protagonist/father/husband leaves. He brings a suitcase full of memories. In my opinion, he brings everything he left behind except his family. People only bring essentials when starting over, but the protagonist is too poor and the most valuable thing he can take along is his memories. He stares at the picture which symbolizes a longing for his family, just like most immigrants who go to another country to fund their family to come over or support their family back home. Another challenge is adjusting to the new life. It is always quite a shock. The protagonist is searching for a job and it takes him a lot of time to get one. First of all, there is a language barrier, so he has to gesticulate. It is hard to make friends or get a job if one doesn’t know the language of their new country. Communication problems puts a greater burden on the protagonists’ struggles. Once he finds a job, he almost immediately loses it because he doesn’t know how things work in the new country. Different culture may lead to doing things differently, or it can, again, be a language barrier. After failing multiple jobs, the protagonist, just like many other immigrants, resort to working in an assembly line. Another vital factor in living standard is that the protagonist lives in a small apartment. It is only two rooms big. And the living rooms seems crowded enough with two tables and a chair. By the way, the protagonist had to draw a picture to articulate what he wanted. This shows that the language barrier, although hard, is not impossible to navigate through. All immigrants have to go through tests in the beginning to see if they are healthy enough, must answer questions, fill out a plethora of paperwork, and wait to do all of that with a horde of people waiting on line. I just like to note that when the protagonist is being checked, and questioned, the place is reminiscent of Ellis Island.
As difficult as the struggles are, immigration also can be quite wondrous. The stray animal that the protagonist becomes friend with is very similar to a dog. It is his greatest companion while he is in the beginning stages of living life as an immigrant. Also, while the protagonist gets on a boat, he asks direction of another immigrant who not only helps him, but explains her life story. It shows how everyone struggles, but there will always people helping each other out. The man with glasses and his son are affable enough to share their dinner with the protagonist. He in returns shows they origami, and they show him their talents. The cordial nature doesn’t just pertain to one people, but to many. The old man whose been through war takes the protagonist to this friends to play some kind of game. Cultures and friends are learned through this, and it is also a way to escape from the struggles, or in a way it takes away the struggles. At the end, when a young lady is lost, the protagonist’s daughter helps her out. This exemplifies that the sincerity of helping immigrants adjust to their new life is continuously passed on, from one person to the next. Some people may have never experienced snow in their lives, and it can be a special time for them. It is new and something they never experienced.
As I said before, I kind of wanted to be in the book. The setting looks so surreal. It’s something I haven’t seen before and it makes me feel like somewhat of an immigrant. I am fascinated by it and want to explore and live in it. It is like what many immigrants think of New York City. New York City is this amazing place, where it only exists in the imagination of most. Some people are just dying to go there. I have the same feeling for the setting in the book. A lot of things, like the hot air balloon, and the magnificent gardens, make me feel like I am a foreigner just like the protagonist feels. I think Tan does this on purpose so that the reader can relate to what an immigrant feels like.