December 8, 2017
In Fun Home Alison Bechdel displayed her expertise of illustration with not only her art but within her words as well. By cleverly using allegories, and connections made with other novels, Bechdel can bring life into her otherwise monochromatic art. When carefully analyzing the connection between her wording and drawings a new level of understanding can be obtained. Through this blend one can infer more information then they would just reading or examining the images.
In the opening scenes, one of the many allegories that are made throughout the novel can be seen as Bechdel is being held aloft by her father’s legs with her arms splayed out as if she was flying. On the fourth panel of this scene as Bechdel is coming down she begins to draw comparisons between Icarus and her father Bechdel states “…it was not me but my father who was to plummet from the sky.” (Bechdel 4) From this line, one can gather that something awful is going to happen to her father, or that something had already begun. Bechdel falling from her father’s legs can also imply some crash that is going to happen to her.
Continuing with the comparisons to the tale of Icarus Bechdel begins to make comparisons to Icarus father Daedalus by saying “Daedalus, too was indifferent to the human cost of his projects.” (Bechdel 11) While reading this and understanding that the connection is to her father one can infer an abusive nature within the father. The imagery that is given with this particular line depicts her father taking an aggressive stance toward her brother who had just dropped the Christmas tree and is saying don’t hit me. The brother proclaiming not to be hit, the most obvious sign of continuous abuse in the household, through the aggressiveness of the father’s stance one can see the aggravation he has pent up. Bechdel’s back is facing out at the viewer, with her face not showing one does not know how to feel through the younger Bechdel, so one must form their feelings as to what is happening.
Four panels later on page twelve the comparisons continue by discussing the minotaur, a beast that is “…Dedalus’s greatest creation…” (Bechdel 12) The scene that is coupled with this line shows Bechdel having broken a crystal liquor bottle that her father owned, and her father is in silhouette looking down on her. The expression on her face shows fear and one would be led to believe that the creation is her father, but with further understanding, one can infer that the creation was her.
This connection begins to make more sense as Bechdel continues to describe the connection she has with her father. Bechdel writes about her father saying “While I was trying to compensate for something unmanly in him he was attempting to express something feminine through me.”(Bechdel 98) To better understand this line one needs to know that Bechdel is a homosexual and that her father was a closeted homosexual. The something unmanly that Bechdel is trying to compensate for is that she never really saw her father as a masculine figure, and she wanted to be that masculine figure. Her father having grown up in the 40’s to 50’s was very oppressed and could never be open with his homosexuality, so as he got older and had a daughter, he had something he could express his femininity on. This expression of femininity is depicted in the scene by the sailor dress that Bechdel is wearing, but these expressions are more spaced out through the entire story by the clothes she is made to wear and how she should keep her hair. The only aspect of the panel that points to her compensating for something unmanly is the text box that says “Least girly dress in the store.”(Bechdel 98) This aspect of her life is better represented on the next page as she is looking through a copy of Esquire and finds a suit that she thinks her father should buy.
In the second to last scene in the novel the front of a large truck presumably the one that killed Bechdel’s father. Centered in the image are the words “He did hurdle into the sea, of course.”(Bechdel 232) This references back to the connections made to Icarus at the start of the novel. Showing the truck while saying that he did go into the sea makes it seem like the life he lived did just end in a crash fueled by passion and overzealousness just as Icarus did. Then when the next and final panel is examined, one will see a young Bechdel jumping into a pool where her father waits with his arms open. The only part of the sentence written in this panel is “…he was there to catch me when I leapt.”(Bechdel 232) Reading this can make one think that herding into the sea does not necessarily mean death though it still could. The other thing that it could mean it is a jump into self-understanding and acceptance of who you are.
Bechdel is an expert when it comes to balancing out her wording and her visuals. She was able to bring interest into an otherwise drab art style, and give life to visually depressed characters. Using her expertise in allegory, she was able to give a wonderful depth to her autobiography, and the biography of her father.
Bechdel, Alison. Fun home. Mariner book, 2006.