Lost Children Archive Themes

The main themes of Lost Children Archive are the permeability of borders, the relationship between past and present, and the unification and separation of families.

  • The permeability of borders: As the family traverses the American Southwest, they encounter shifting physical and conceptual boundaries; they also discuss the plight of migrant children crossing the border from Mexico.
  • The relationship between past and present: The narrator and her husband embody present and past in their work: hers as a journalist and his as an ethno-audiologist.
  • The unification and separation of families: Luiselli explores the challenges of joining two families and, ultimately, the parents' decision to separate.

Themes

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Last Updated on January 8, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 395

The Permeability of Borders

Valeria Luiselli’s novel explores the impermanence and permeability of geographic borders. As the family travels toward and through the Southwest United States, they encounter numerous physical boundaries between locations that have lost their past importance. Tightly intertwined with this idea is the relationship between those physical...

(The entire section contains 395 words.)

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The Permeability of Borders

Valeria Luiselli’s novel explores the impermanence and permeability of geographic borders. As the family travels toward and through the Southwest United States, they encounter numerous physical boundaries between locations that have lost their past importance. Tightly intertwined with this idea is the relationship between those physical boundaries and conceptual ones such as race and ethnicity, which are treated as central elements of American culture. A concern with language is paramount in the idea of communication across boundaries through both oral and written media. The novel is also deeply concerned with the fragility of children, many of whom are vulnerable undocumented immigrants who do not actually appear in the novel, because they have gone missing after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States.

The Relationship Between Past and Present

The relationship of present and past is played out through the two central characters. The unnamed narrator is a journalist whose work concerns undocumented children, while her husband is an ethno-audiologist and soundscape artist specializing in Native American and ancient sound and language. Their professions thus offer a contrast, as her concern is with contemporary events, and his is with past occurrences. However, the heritage of indigenous Americans is very much part of the present in the Southwestern states they traverse in their car. Most of the novel consists of the family’s road trip, offering diverse perspectives on the shifting geographic, racial, and ethnic boundaries they encounter as they travel across the southern border zone.

The Unification and Separation of Families

The couple’s children—a boy and a girl, each from previous relationships—are traveling with them. Both children are US citizens, so their youthful perspectives on the plight of the undocumented children, many of whom are unaccounted for, are especially poignant. The joining of the families is relatively recent, and the challenges of working through the communication problems that arise on the trip—as the mother’s concern for the missing migrant children sparks worries about their own children—becomes a recurrent motif. In the end, the narrator and her husband decide to separate when the trip is over, each taking their biological child with them. This separation, while intentional and ultimately positive, echoes the separation of migrant families, and the boy gives the girl his documentation of the trip, promising that they will find each other in the future.

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