The comic implies that, stories have the power to shape peoples beliefs and thus their behaviors, as per this story, it mainly puts its focus on the Alison Bechdels home which was a funny one. The father of this family was a gay. The story shows how the father changed the view of gender identities, construction of bodies, family relationships together with sex. (fun home, pg 5-20 ), one can get a better understanding of how a Bechdel employs words and comic graphic devices to render specific events.
In Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, the reader is introduced to an entire world through short comic panels. The title seems to undermine the actual home in the novel because the family home seems anything but fun. It seems to be a home full of secrets and hidden personalities. Each character seems to be the opposite of each other, almost as if their foils of each other. In this case the main polar opposites seem to be the father and his daughter Alison. Specifically, the top panel on page 98, work as an excellent example of the differences among each of these characters. The book touches upon many themes, including, but not limited to homosexuality, family relationships, and gender identity. Although the Alison and her father Bruce have strained relationship, they simultaneously face many of the same feelings as the two are both queer, interested in literature, and the desire to be the opposite sex. This paper starts by analyzing the desire of homosexuality and gender identity of Alison and Bruce and well evaluates their same interest in literature which is critical in shaping their personalities. The comic implies that, stories have the power to shape peoples beliefs and thus their behaviors, giving those who control stories over the world itself.
One of the major features of the graphic novel is homosexuality and gender identity. To begin with, page 98 includes various quotes that add very nicely to the idea of main characters who foil each other. Bechdel actually points out the differences between her and her father by saying, “Not only were we inverts. We were inversions of one another” (Bechdel 98). Through the two’s discussions this point stands as very true. In these panels, the two seem to be getting ready together for fairly elegant events. In the first panel it is a wedding the family is preparing for and Alison is requesting that her father allow her to wear sneakers to the event. He always knowing what to wear and dressing to the tees, declines this notion. This is when Bechdel mentions that through her, her father “was attempting to express something feminine” (Bechdel 98). This is a slip through of his homosexual emotions. Him being a more feminine gay, is allowing this to be seen through his attention to detail in his daughter’s apparel. This also slightly slips through into his own apparel due to his velvet suit he has prepared to wear to the wedding. The father showing his feminine side through his daughter contradicts with her masculinity that she is attempting to break through with. Bechdel mentions, “I was trying to compensate for something unmanly in him” (Bechdel 98). Meaning, the masculinity he lacked, she was going to make up for. The illustrations provided in these panels further demonstrate the inversions between the two characters. Alison is wearing a dress that she refers to as the least girly in the store. It resembles almost a sailor’s uniform with the bow around the neck. While she is avoiding femininity, her father is pictured wearing a full velvet suit embracing his femininity. Also, in her essay “Autographic Disclosures and Genealogies of Desire in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home,” Julia Watson states that, “Twice, Bechdel uses near-life-sized drawings of a hand holding a sheaf of photographs to call readers’ attentions to look at her intimately personal acts of investigating her father’s hidden history and her own identification with it.” And therefore, Bechdel is allowing the audience to look into these very personal points in her life on purpose, thus allowing the audience to explore her own emotional and sexual intimacy.
Another similarity held between Alison and Bruce is their shared interest in Literature. The two bonded over their interest. For example, her father wanted her to read Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Of course, Alison was the only student in her English class to read the novel, so she was the only student interacting with Bruce during that class period. Her father said to her “You’re the only one in that class worth teaching” and she said back to him, “It’s the only class I have worth taking” (Bechdel 199). The dynamic between Alison and Bruce in a classroom setting shows how literature reinforces a connection between the two. The relationship between Alison and Bruce grew because of their admiration of literature. She spends a lot of her time discussing novels with her father, sharing their ideas and views. Sadly, this is one of the few ways Alison and Bruce are able to communicate. Bruce gave her a copy of a novel, which includes lesbian themes. Alison was shocked that her father suggested she read this book, as she hadn’t come out to her father yet. By giving her this novel, there was a spark of connection between the two that allowed them to open up to each other to speaking about their sexuality. Additionally, Alison discovered she is a lesbian shortly before Bruce’s death. Her awakening was sparked by literature. Alison spent her days in the public library reading about homosexuality, going to meetings called “gay union” and dating girls. Also, one great example is found when Bechdel describes her father using with literature she read (64). At this point in the memoir, she is describing how her father is not unlike Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. She goes on to say that her father even looked like Robert Redford in his portrayal of Gatsby in the 1974 film. Based on this analysis, literature plays a significant role in shaping the personalities and sexual orientation of Alison and her father.
In conclusion, it is can be ascertained that Alison and her father Bruce had a strained relationship, however, they simultaneously face many of the same feelings as the two are both queer, interested in literature, and the desire to be the opposite sex. The contradiction among characters’ personalities adds to the thickening of the plot. From early on Alison wanted to push through with her masculinity however, her father oppressed it with his excessive feminine tactics. Her father wishes for her to always be well dressed and proper, but she plans to do the opposite. The discrepancy between Alison and Bruce is Bruce’s decision to keep his sexuality private aside from his wife. Whereas Alison wanted to explore and act upon her sexual orientation, as she viewed it as part of her identity. Regardless of their different views, they have same obsession with literature which in turn aids in shaping the personalities and sexual orientation.
- Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.
- Watson, Julia. “Autographic Disclosures and Genealogies of Desire in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, 31.1 (2008).
- Bechdel, Alison. Fun home: A family tragicomic. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007.
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