Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
The memoir “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel reminds me more of a fictional rather than “real” graphic memoir. Bruce, Alison’s dad seems like he is escaping from the world rather than in the reality due to his hidden identity, being homosexual. During Bruce’s time period, homosexuality was not acceptable. By secluding himself to the outside world, including his family was his only escape. Moreover, Alison chooses to combine the world around her with the world that she thinks that she is in. The relationship between Alison and Bruce is somewhat distant. Yet, they seem to be closer when they are discussing about literature books. Hence, this memoir is connected with literatures in every significant event that took place in this novel, including the reveal of their sexual identity.
Bechdel opened up her story showing the readers how close her relationship is with her father. Bruce was doing the “airplane” game with Alison. However, she falls down soon after (Bechdel 3). She used the Greek mythology of Daedalus and Icarus to suggest that perhaps it isn ‘t only the child who can take Icarus’ position: ‘In our particular reenactment of this mythic relationship, it was not me but my father who was to plummet from the sky’ (Bechdel 4). Daedalus was the master of the craftsman. He made two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son, Icarus. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, or else it would melt the wings. Nor fly too low near the sea because it would make the wings hard to fly.
Consequently, Icarus didn’t listen to his father and flew too close to the sun where his wings melted and plummeted into the sea. This allusion made it seem like it was a metaphor for the relationship between Alison and Bruce. However, it was actually a reference stating Bruce was the one that flew too close to the sun and died. Bechdel made the opening scene seem like a positive father-daughter bond. Though, it was not the case. Daedalus tried his best to create wings for Icarus to escape; yet he still fell. Both Bruce and Daedalus wish the best for their family, but they don’t know how to properly attain it. For instance, Bruce was obsessed with decorating his old Gothic mansion. However, it seems like Bruce was trying to use this as an excuse for him to gain a sense of power over himself and his environment because of his hidden identity. Furthermore, because Bechdel has to compare Bruce to literary character hints that this is how they only are able to communicate to each other, and to get closer in their relationship.
Throughout this novel, Bruce appeared to want to live through his daughter’s life. For instance, Alison and Bruce’s life have always been about femininity versus masculinity, “It was a war of cross-purposes” (Bechdel 98). As Bruce was trying to expose his feminine side by using Alison as a proxy, Alison was trying to make up for the lack of masculinity her father showed. She noticed that her father’s taste is much more effeminate than her own. Thus, ties back to his obsession of beautifying the house. Conceivably because of Bruce is ashamed of his hidden identity, he uses Alison’s body as a body he will never have and enforce femininity upon her. Some of Bechdel’s illustrations display that Bruce forced Alison to wear barrettes in her hair and wears a dress. But Alison likes to keep her hair short and dress comfortably. He forced Alison to become someone she is not. At the end of the novel, Bruce revealed that he has always wanted to be a girl. Due to the facts above, it made Bruce, the character more fictional than “real”. Moreover, the time period that he lived in, homosexuality was not acceptable by the society. Therefore, living through someone else’s life was the only choice. I feel sympathetic towards Bruce because he can never become the person he has always wanted to be.
Furthermore, the books that Bruce reads in his lifetime shows it was fictional and much more different than Alison’s books. Some of Bruce’s reading novels were “Anna Karenina,” “A Happy Death,” “Remembrance of Things Past,” and “The Great Gatsby,” while Alison’s books were “Our Right To Love,” “Homosexualities,” “Delta of Venus,” and “the Well of Loneliness.” One major difference in Bruce’s reading novels is that they are mainly fictional, classics and the connection to the theme death. However, in Alison’s reading book, it was more about the reality and the world she is in. I think this is one of the main reasons why Alison sees her parents “most real in fictional terms” (Bechdel 67). Additionally, Alison thinks the house looks like it’s from the Addams Family, and she has a hard time relating to her parents. She even pairs Bruce to Jimmy Gatsby, with his “self-willed metamorphosis.” Alas, Alison’s parents is fictional to her, and it appears that Bruce goes into these fictional worlds to escape from his unhappy reality and hide his true identity and sexuality, whereas Alison’s books assist her to understand the world she is in. Finally, I feel that Alison’s childhood didn’t appear to be a reality to her, and the novels she read helped her come to terms with what is possibly most real to her, her sexuality.
Throughout the memoir, the words, “I think” was mentioned several times in her diary. This conveys that she was uncertain about some of the events that happened in her life, and nothing around her seems to be sincerely “real.” For example, she refers her menstruation as “Ning” (Bechdel 169). Due to the fact that she always wanted to be a boy, she finds her menstruation to be too feminine and embarrassing. Therefore, she ignores it and converts it with letters. Though she is able to avoid her discomfort. However, at the same time, she is demolishing her reality.
Literature became the mediator of bringing Alison and Bruce’s relationship one step closer. While she admits the connection and her intimacy with her father is abnormal to others, she still seems to enjoy and appreciate it. Also, Bruce opening up to Alison about his sexuality made him seem like he’s able to accept of who he is and not be ashamed anymore. Bechdel illustrated him as he was finally trying to stop escaping from reality and trying to build a relationship between Alison and him. Alison does grieve that they “were close. But not close enough” (Bechdel 225). Nonetheless, despite the fact that they were not as close as she wanted them to be, she treasures that “he was there to catch [her] when [she] leapt” (Bechdel 232), which is shown at the end of the novel when she jumped off the diving board into Bruce’s arm.