Silent sequences and ontological entanglement in Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Pat Grant’s Blue
Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics
Taylor & Francis
School of Arts and Humanities / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications
Shaun Tan’s The Arrival depicts the story of a man who leaves his partner and daughter to find a new home for them all in a far away place. Rendered entirely without words, the story is ultimately a utopian narrative that portrays a world in which migrants are greeted with generosity and kindness by the people they encounter upon their arrival. Pat Grant’s Blue also features a story about migration. In Blue, however, the immigrants are treated with suspicion and disdain. Although a local man primarily narrates Blue, many sequences – and especially those panels and pages that feature the unnamed immigrants – contain no verbal text. In this essay, I analyse silent sequences to demonstrate the way familiar objects entangle with characters and readers in these two graphic novels. Although both comics contain multiple instances of such entanglements and silences, I focus upon the beginning and ending of the narratives to demonstrate how Groensteen’s concept of braiding functions in both texts to create aesthetic and ethical connections within the narratives and between characters and readers. I argue that the silent sequences in which these objects appear create an ethics of connection through ontological entanglement.