Analysis Of The Red Tree By Shaun Tan

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The Red Tree (Shaun Tan, 2001) is a children’s picture book that is both written and illustrated by Shaun Tan. The Red Tree is a book about depression, despair and ultimately, hope. The book follows a girl struggling with depression who, at the end of the book, finds hope in the form of a red tree. For a picture book to be successful, both the illustrations and written text generally can exist independently, but complement each other. There is a strong marriage between the written and visual language in Tan’s book that creates a harmonious connection to powerfully and effectively represent depression.
The illustrations in The Red Tree are the most important element of the book; Tan effectively represents depression by using colour, strong imagery and the significance of a red leaf which appears somewhere on each page. The red leaf symbolises hope. In the case of depression, there is always hope for a better circumstance, but the girl doesn’t think so. The narrative states, “Sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to,” and on the next page, “Things go from bad to worse.” (Appendix 1) In the illustration for that page, the room is full of brown leaves, with a red leaf framed above
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Some colours are known to be associated with certain feelings and the colours blue and grey are used extensively throughout the picture book. These colours are known to be identified with depression and sadness. The meanings of Tan’s illustrations are reinforced through the use of colour. Shaun Tan stated on his website, “The Red Tree is a story without any particular narrative; a series of distinct imaginary worlds as self-contained images which invite readers to draw their own meaning in the absence of any written explanation.” ( Tan has purposely left the written text relatively sparse so the audience can draw their own conclusions about the meaning of the book through the

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