Visual Representations in The Arrival

My first impression of The Arrival is that the form allows for the audience to reflect and imprint their interpretations onto the narrative. The absence of dialogue and any formal language lets the reader form assumptions from the visuals in order to understand what is happening. For example, the images of the old country not only provide a direct contrast to the images of the new country when juxtaposed next to one another, but also depict a more gloomy and simple life. As an audience member, I picked up on the details of the cracks in the teapot, the unhappy looks, the sparse belongings and the small darker images. These images give the allusion of a struggling man with very little. However, another way to read the scenes could be to focus on the hope and symbolic passage this experience could provide. The man may not be packing a lot, but it could show the courage and belief instilled in the man that he will succeed in a new life and be able to return or send his family over.

In addition, the presentation of the arrival of an immigrant bring a sense of adventure and wonder to the story, which is emphasized through the visual representations. Relying on words to describe the emotions and events that occur during a movement of people can be hard. The image of the ship with all the immigrants is an example of this. From the visuals, we are lead to believe that hundreds of immigrants are moving locations and this man is not the only one. This image is portrayed through the small succession from a man on a ship to his window to all the many windows on the ship. This man that the audience is attempting to connect with and understand is just one of many. Text and language alone may not have been able to describe the idea of this man as part of hundreds also emigrating, or allow the audience to connect on an empathetic and emotional level. The description of the arrival could be difficult to convey, but with graphics, the emotions and visual representations of movement and arrival paired with a sense of adventure may actually be more beneficial. The lack of dialogue and language does not limit the narrative of the arrival, but instead being able to see visual representations of the narrative opens up the possibility to interpret the narrative individually.

Conforming to a Language

Throughout Dictee, a major question I had about the piece relates to the text and form of the narrative. Dictee cannot be easily categorized into a singular genre. Perhaps that is the goal of the text though. The unmarked pictures, broken language of the narrative, and frequent translations could be commenting on the immigrant experience as depicted in the narrative.

The unique language and form used in Dictee reflects the often broken speech experienced when learning a new language.  As Guan Soon mentions in Dictee, “Still, you speak the tongue the mandatory language like the others. It is not your own. Even if it is not you know you must” (45). Language for the narrator is much more than a way to communicate. Immigrants are often forced to learn a new language in order to adapt and survive in a new country. The imposition of the Japanese language onto the people demonstrates the expectation of conformity; it must be understood. The significance of the form of text in Dictee reflects the struggle of language for the characters.

Guan Soon also shows the influence language can have on future generations of immigrants. As her mother is forced to learn another language, there is still some potential resistance. However, as the narrative develops for Guan Soon, the audience gets the impression that the once foreign language imposed on Guan Soon becomes the other language and the native tongue is abandoned. Guan Soon mentions at one point that, “I speak another tongue, a second tongue. This is how distant I am” (85). In Dictee, imperialism stretches far beyond simple land boundaries, but includes language and culture. So, Guan Soon may view language as one of many things she had to change, which create distance from her native country.

How is Gualinto a leader?

The conclusion of George Washington Gomez is rushed and leaves more questions than answers for me. The biggest question that comes about from the conclusion relates to Gualinto as the leader of his people. Gualinto even questions multiple times who his people are, which foreshadows his loyalty in a way, and in the conclusion it look as if he finally decides.

One example of Gualinto’s disloyalty to his people occurs in the conclusion when it is mentioned that many community members and his school age friends are doing well. One friend received his pharmacy degree and is now a registered pharmacist, two friends run a successful restaurant, many are involved in local politics, and one is a dentist (289). Yet, despite all of these successes, Gualinto still only acknowledges the downfalls in his hometown and among the people. He even goes so far to stereotype his friends. When Leyton mentions if things continue as they are, the only jobs for Mexicans will be clearing brush and digging more ditches (294). Gualinto’s only response is, “’If that’s all they can do’” (294). Even though his friends have proved Gualinto wrong because they have successful jobs and want to improve their city, he still believes he is the only successful one. Many times throughout the narrative, Gualinto’s actions and remarks gave off the impression that he believed himself to be so much better than his peers and even his family, just because he was thought to be special. No matter what he does, even if he turns his back on his people, he believes he is better than everyone else.

The exchanges between Gualinto and his family and hometown friends in the conclusion overwhelmingly point to the fact he hides his upbringing and has actively chosen to support the American part of him and abandon the Mexican part. This is surprising even though he did battle with his identity throughout the whole narrative. After the conclusion, I am still left wondering though how Gualinto could be a leader for his people, except to show them what not to become. Yes, Gualinto is successful, but he was not loyal to his people, and loyalty to his culture and upbringing seem to be more important than money or success.

Immigrant Identity in Narratives

After reading both, “The Immigrant Novel,” and “Immigrant Writing: Changing the Contours of a National Literature,” a common theme emerging in immigrant narratives revolves around the idea of identity. Often times the experiences of the immigrant are troubling and include many obstacles, but also moments of clarity and success. These rough, conflicting experiences force clashes between the original identity and with the forced new character. The result is that many immigrant narratives produce a stereotypical image of a struggling character- both internally and externally.

Although there are numerous similarities that can be drawn between immigrant narratives, such as themes of assimilation, struggle, or bildungsroman, a defining feature of many immigrants experience is the shedding of their old identity to form a new conformed and adjusted character. In “Immigrant Writing,” Mukherjee writes that immigrants and immigrant narratives often work to deliberately erase the past and form a new identity (681). This transformation of characters can result in an internal conflict where new identities are forced on an immigrant. The struggle of the internal character revolves around this idea of conflict between the old and new. The common idea is that in order to assimilate and develop a new identity, the old one must be removed. Miller also echoes in, “The Immigrant Novel,” a similar idea that in order to be included in society, there is a sort of consensual amnesia that needs to occur, including shedding of individual pasts to join a collective identity of the new nation (209). However, is it possible to maintain both identities in tandem? Can immigrants truly merge both their native and new characters together as a result of the experiences they portrayed in immigrant narratives?