“The Arrival,” by Shaun Tan, is a very unique and intriguing illustrated story filled with a variety of perceptions, questions, details, interpretive images, and inspirations. Although there are many ways one could summarize this story, I have come to the conclusion that it is based on a traveler’s story. A family is subject to separate an impecunious town, in search of a better existence in an unfamiliar realm on the other side of an immense sea. The husband/father finds himself in a confusing city of unfamiliar customs, strange animals, inquisitive floating objects and impossible to read languages. Having nothing more than a travel case and a handful of money, this refugee must find a place to reside, provisions, and some kind of productive service. He is helped alongside the way by understanding strangers, each hauling their own silent history. These stories tell of struggle and survival in a world of perplexing aggression, disorder and hope.
Before I even started to dive into this book I needed to know more about the author; to understand his reasoning in constructing this unique and unusual approach toward his cultural surreal descriptions. Shawn Tan came from the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. Being a half-Chinese, Shaun Tan experienced a sense of separateness because of the unclear notion of identity and detachment from roots. Shaun Tan’s work as an illustrator helps the reader to travel beyond the individual issues and basic existential question that everybody deals with from time to time. “When something challenges our reality or defines our expectations we often find ourselves in new realities such as a new school, employment, relationship or country, any of which demand some reinvention of belonging.”
Drawing upon my experiences both personal and professional, I will discuss experiences portrayed in the book, how they compare to experiences of my own, and the experiences of other people I know, such as my students or my own ancestors. I will also discuss what some of the travelers struggles were, what his needs were and how he met them, how these struggles compare to what I have read about culture, culture shock, and schema. Finally, I will discuss what I can take from reading this book and apply it to English Language Learners. I will explain how this book will speak to my immigrant students, and how I use this book to help my non-immigrant students understand the immigrant experience.
The experiences portrayed in this book were illustrated by pictures of the separation of the husband/father from his wife and child. The suite case showed the initial segregation. How from a family perspective in most cultures it is a sign of emotional pull and struggle. Whether it is a choice in the best interest of the family or whether it is a forced choice. I believe the main source for the visual reference was New York in early 1900’s and the great mass-immigration for Europeans. The long journey from a decrepit country to a country of mass opportunity. This showed the start of the physical cultural change and shock that the traveler had to encounter to support his reason for segregation. The two statues that represented the sisterhood of the Statue of Liberty helped single the transformation from culture to culture. The variety of other people that the traveler encountered showed the vast cultural change in customs and societies. Languages were no the same and difficult to understand. Customs were nowhere similar to what the traveler experienced during his life. The different variety of animals, employment and foods that were available and how each were a necessity to his new cultural shock had the traveler question his reason for separation and why he had determination to experience these oddities. All experiences that we as different races struggle with every day.
These experiences that the traveler has encountered can be compared to the normality of my own experiences....
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