In which Icarus has an alternate ending.

My favorite scene in the entirety of Fun Home is the scene of Allison and Bruce in the car as they head to the theater (220-221). This scene is so jarring and unlike any other panels from the rest of novel because it reverts to the classic comic strip style of multiple panels lined in rows that follow chronologically. Although not a necessarily happy scene, it’s the most the reader has seen of Allison and her father actually talking about their shared queerness and one of the only times we see Bruce ever opening up. The change in style really affects the way this scene is read because the reader sees almost every second of the scene shot by shot; it feels longer than it is and that’s probably indicative of how Allison remembers that moment in her life. I always question why she chose to style the scene in such a way and I think it’s because it was a moment that had a big impact on her and when we think back on memories that have shaped us, it’s as if we’re standing right there, remembering every small detail and feeling like it never ends. To me, it felt like she was bringing the reader in on this private, intimate moment. Furthermore, despite Bruce opening up, he still doesn’t answer any of Allison’s questions or connect with her the way she wants too. It’s awkward and a bit uncomfortable but because there’s still so much left unsaid, Allison is able to interpret the conversation in any way she chooses. Though Allison never gets the chance, from what the reader sees, to truly understand her father and connect with him the way she wants too before his death, Allison paints this picture of him now with the knowledge that he was gay and that he may have killed himself. She recounts all the moments in her childhood that at the time meant something entirely different to her than it does now and thus this story slowly achieves a tone that is both heart breaking and hopeful. At the end of the novel, Allison ties the allusion of Icarus to her father together by pondering that though Icarus “[hurtled] into the sea…in the tricky reverse narration that impels [her and Bruce’s] entwined stories, he was there to catch [her] when [she] leapt.” This quote summarizes the entire novel perfectly and I interpreted it as the idea that Allison’s identity as a lesbian is directly tied to her father and his “secret”. He was, in many ways, the catalyst to her finding herself and though she may not know everything to understand him, she feels like she is what her father would’ve been if he was able to, for example when she switches from relating Icarus with her father to herself as she ponders what if Icarus had “inherited his father’s inventive bent” and what “might he have wrought.” She owes a lot of who she is to him and this characteristic they share is the closest thing she has to even begin understanding who he really was.

Questions:

  1. What do you think Allison thinks of her relationship with her father? Do you think it’s conveyed clearly whether or not they had a good relationship, why or why not?
  2. What was your interpretation of the last scene in the novel of Allison and Bruce at the pool as he gets ready to catch her when she jumps?
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3 thoughts on “In which Icarus has an alternate ending.

  1. Like most relationships outside of fiction, Allison and Bruce were complicated. I think Bechdel did a really good job of showing both the highs and the lows of her father. While the end of the novel seems much more sympathetic to him, the beginning still stands as a criticism of a lot of his actions. As we get better insight into what may have driven those actions, we, like Allison, come to feel for him a little more. But it seems like a lot of what we come to understand about him by the end of the novel is purely speculation on Bechdel’s part, and I can’t help but feel that a lot of the conclusions she reaches at the end of the novel came as she was writing this story and further analyzing her relationship to her father. Maybe writing and illustrating this book was one way she came to her own conclusions about their relationship. Overall, I think their relationship was messy, and it was probably more a mix of good and bad than completely favoring one over the other.

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  2. I never realized and find very interesting your observation of changed structure of the driving-to-theater scene. The rest of the novel has a very complex relation between the panels (structure and content) and the narrations. Perhaps Bechdel switches to the this more simplistic panel structure for this scene to allow the content to be the focus, the rawness of the conversation, instead of the verbose literary narration by the dominating element.

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  3. I did not notice this stylistic change at all! Thank you for pointing it out. I love the insight into the different ways different people view the relationship between Allison and her father, and I wonder what drives different people to come to said conclusions. Allison isn’t necessarily explicit about her intentions – perhaps, like you mentioned, this is also a reflection of how she herself never received direct answers but nevertheless came to her own conclusions?

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