“The Arrival,” illustrated by Shaun Tan, presents the visual story of a migrant’s experience as he leaves his home and family to create a better life for them in an unseen country, mirroring a migrant’s life upon migrating to a 1990s New York City, showing his experience of poverty, home sickness, language difficulties, separation from family and loss of social status.
The purpose of the book was to represent what many immigrants experienced and reflect their memories of travelling to foreign countries, and for Shaun Tan to depict his experience of growing up in one of the most isolated cities in the world, as he discovered a sense of separation, an unclear conception of identity and questioned what it means to be “Australian”. The target audience is immigrants who can relate to this book, although there is no particular audience as it can relate to everyone for the book questions every day experiences.
The concept of belonging is explored within this text with the use of language features. It uses flashbacks represented in a dark sepia tone, suggesting the past and pain of the trauma of these stories. The sharing of these experiences bonds the arrival to the people within this new environment, creating a place where he feels he can belong. Symbolism is employed, such as the alien creature and the white origami bird who befriend the father. They are representatives of how belonging is about people and relationships and not the locations for these are unstable.
This acts as a reminder of where he comes from and inspires him to continue through difficult times. The visual angles create emotion, tension and a sense of individual opinion on belonging among a third person narrative. It uses visual metaphors such as the dragon’s tail that, as a faceless threat, slithers through the old town, providing the push for change and the creation of a new place to belong. There is an absence of written descriptions, which allows individual interpretation and as a result, the belonging experiences of one family becomes a reflection of many.
The text has affected my response by having no words, therefore allowing me to create meaning for myself. I was positioned in the characters shoes with the absence of writing, and therefore made my own interpretations. It showed me how it felt to not belong visually with the use of images of different cities around the world. The texts develop my understanding of belonging because it showed me migration is an inessential part of human history. The visual text allowed me to understand what feeling and emotions are felt when you are taken away from your family and then moving to another country.