Foreground: A Key to Understanding


Cover of Vietnamerica graphic novel

Have you ever judged a book by its foreground? For many pages of G.B Trans graphic memoir Vietnamerica(2010), its precisely what readers are doing. Foreground is a usual tool used by artists in order to convey a certain message, where the subject or focus of the image is manipulated by the artist in order to move the readers eyes and attention to one specific aspect of the piece of art. On pages 9 and 10 of the graphic this memoir this tool is used.

Foreground on these pages creates an effect of sadness. In the pages 9 and 10 the scene where the grandmother’s death is described, the narrator’s mom is walking with an image of her mother. In the panel after this one the image of the grandmother is magnified and is made the focus of that image. Panels with big images are presented and then in a panel afterwards a specific part of the image is magnified. This tool allows the readers to understand the main idea the author/artist is trying to portray, given that with pieces of work like this one it can be hard to understand the authors/artists intent with artistic actions.

In addition, foreground also creates the effect of emotions intensified to the reader. In regards of the image of the grandmother, the readers are forced to focus on the grandmother and the grieve of the scene. The text on this page shows that the narrator was not close to his grandmother but given that the focus was made to be the grieve from his grandmother’s death, the readers are able to understand the narrators love for his mom. The text says he went to Vietnam for his mom and to be there for his mom through this difficult situation regardless of not knowing many people there, his love for his mom drove him to Vietnam.

The way foreground is used in these pages and memoir connects to the idea of each layer of an image having its distinct significance. For instance, the background of an image may intend to depict a contrasting idea of that of middle ground and foreground. This can be seen when the background of an image is drawn with dark colors and saddened features, but the foreground may be the opposite with bright colors and happy emotions intended. Foreground adds the necessary sub explanation that’s needed to complete an image and understanding.


Works Cited:

Tran, Gia-Bao. Vietnamerica. New York, Villard Books, 2010.


One thought on “Foreground: A Key to Understanding

  1. I like the visual pattern you choose to focus on, the foreground is very important and interesting because not only does it give us crucial information to why Tran and his family are back in Vietnam, it also help to show familial relationships in a time of sadness. That same sadness helps to explain why the Tran’s left and explains their return.The Foreground exposes emotion that connects the family history to one of sadness and lost thus far. This is where my post can also connect to yours because the foreground then brings into further question of, what is his family history? I speak on how he is back in Vietnam to follow his roots and discover them because a tree or a person without history is essentially lost. The lost of his grandmother I would then say is an example of lost history, and he is trying to discovery himself before he loses more. While your focus is the foreground, mine is the background, and these two act together to not only produce scenes and scenery, but to also show the layers to both Tran’s history and of the images we see.

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