Memory or Imagination

This was one of the last “photos” we looked at in class today:

It really struck me on a few levels. I initially assumed that it was simply a memory that had been triggered by his opening his suitcase. But then I looked closely and realized that it’s only the mother and the daughter sitting alone at the table that’s set for only 2 people. For that reason, I began to consider the possibility of it being him imagining what his family must be doing back home.

To this extent, I realized that Tan played a lot with the whole idea of imagination and memory. They often collide in his illustrations, making it unclear to the reader what exactly is being portrayed. In my opinion, I think that there’s an inevitable overlapping of the two in my own mind–where I don’t think I can remember something so impartially that it’s never subject to being changed by my imagination, however unintentionally. There’s a fine line between the two that is, to a certain degree, a lot more blurry than I had realized before.

Is this photo a piece of his memory or his imagination? Or is it both? The faces of the child, mother, and the setting are for sure pieces of his memory; he’s just repurposed them in a different setting to imagine what they must be doing.


Leave a Reply