Literature and Fun Home

Bechdel draws very close ties between her life and fiction. Particularly, her parents each seem to resemble a famous author in some way, mimicking the life and styles of their characters. Her father to Fitzgerald and her mother Henry James. As she puts it, “If my father was a Fitzgerald character, my mother stepped right out of Henry James — a vigorous American idealist ensnared by degenerate continual forces” (66). She even compares their meeting and subsequent life together to the plots of various novels. Literature also plays an important role in helping Bechdel discover her sexuality. Browsing the library, she says “My realization at nineteen that I was a lesbian came about in a manner consistent with my bookish upbringing” (74). Thus, we can see that Bechdel treats literature as a touchstone for reality, something which she can draw upon to make sense of her world and the characters in it. Not only does reality mimic art, but art also gives Bechdel insight into her own reality.

Back when we were reading Rubyfruit Jungle, Ryan made a post about English being really gay. He points out how almost every character in Rubyfruit that was queer had some tie to literature or love of reading, etc. I can’t help but draw parallels here. Bechdel saturates her story with literary allusions. Both Audre Lorde and Leslie Feinberg focus on poetry in their stories. In all of these instances, the written word seems to be a cathartic means of self expression, or a form of escape from a harsh reality. However, while the other stories we’ve read seem to focus on their characters writing original content, Bechdel instead draws upon references to literature to express her world.

  1. Bechdel is clearly well read, but much of this story is conveyed through visuals rather than words. Why do you think she decided to draw her story instead of write it? In what ways does this graphic format improve her storytelling?
  2. At the end of chapter 4 Bechdel draws parallels between herself and her father. What other ways are they similar? Different?


2 thoughts on “Literature and Fun Home

  1. I want to answer your discussion question regarding the effects of Bechdel’s comic strips into her narrative as a whole. I think that given comics have particularly pertained to things denoted as humorous (like the funnies in the newspaper), the use of cartooned illustrations in Fun Home serve the same purpose in the portrayal of her childhood. Bruce’s closeted homosexuality, and his eventual suicide could definitely be considered a “cartoon” in a sense that it is almost exaggerate of reality. This isn’t to say that Bechdel’s recount is fictitious, but rather, her experience with navigating a relationship with her father amongst his baggage proposes an almost too typical, too “cartoonish”, of the narrative expressed surrounding closeted homosexuals. Bruce is obsessed with decorating his house. Bruce has affairs with underaged boys. Bruce throws himself in front of a truck and kills himself. All of these elements of Bruce’s characterization are elaborate profiles of the drama associated with the story of a closeted homosexual man. Bruce, is a cartoon of a closeted homosexual. In this way, his demise and Allison’s hardships are so bad that they are almost unreal, and carry a comical effect. The way in which she choses to illustrate her story rather than write of her experience adds to this comical effect, and to the reader’s feelings of detachment from reality.


  2. I liked the previous comment’s commentary, but wanted to expand a bit. Since yes, comics are often, well, comical, I think the use of having a comic to display heavier content just adds to the various contradictions in Allison’s life. This is even evidenced in the title when the work is referred to as a “tragicomic.” Her life is both tragic and comedic, she is both Icarus and his father, etc.


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