Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bechdel - A House of Deception

          The Bechdel family home was where the father tried to hide his vices and completely control his surroundings.  He was very meticulous about how the home was kept, and took pride in making it look like something it was not. In his personal life he was also trying to paint a pretty picture for the outside world, but on the inside he was truly something different.  There were subtle hints in the home that could show what it truly was, but he did a very good job of hiding them.
            In the beginning of the reading there is not a clear relation between the fathers inability to control his own vices and how that relates to his obsessive need to control the order and appearance of his home.  Then as the book progresses we start to understand why he is the way he is and how his control of the house represents a need to control something to make his life look normal; when in actuality he was surrendering to his vices right there in the family home.  The illustration in the upper left corner of page 15 in Bechdel’s, Fun Home A Family Tragicomic, shows her dad reading, The Nude by Kenneth Clark, and I believe this was the first faint foreshadowing to the revelation later in the book of the father’s vices.  He was somewhat giving into his vice, and looking at naked bodies instead of paying attention to his daughter who was right beside him. Immediately after that picture, on the lower right side of the page, he is making her clean the house, which I believe was the father needing to establish control in his home once again. 
            The restoration of the home to original conditions and then some, showed how the father was interested in making a grand impression on whoever looked at it, so they would not see the flaws in it or himself.  He wanted to look like the perfect father by making his home look very impressive and orderly.  There are various illustrations of the children cleaning and using a cleaner referred to by Bechdel as, “Incipient Yellow Lung Disease”. I believe this showed the importance the father placed on keeping the home to a certain standard, with no regard to his children’s happiness or well-being.  Another example of the father placing importance for the home over the children’s safety is shown in the series of illustrations on page 23.  These illustrations start with the father riding with the young child on the lawn mower and quickly move to him doing other work while the child is left to cut the grass alone, using a lawn mower that is twice the size of them.  The father obviously did not want to spend quality time with the child; he was only interested in making his home look good. Even when he would go to through a ball around with his kids, he could not resist the urge to clear weeds if the ball rolled near a patch that needed to be cleaned.  He felt the need to constantly upkeep his facade of a happy home so no one would find out the truth about him. He is constantly shown using his kids as free labor to keep his grand home clean.
            The library of the family home seemed to be the fathers’ masterpiece and that is also, I think not by coincidence, the first place we see him with a boy named Ron. The library had a large leather-topped desk from which the father is seen at many times during the book.  He is shown sitting at the desk reading a book or doing paperwork, which gave him a sense of power and control over the home.  The layout of the library on page 60 shows a very old fashion, grandiose decorated room with a massive bookshelf and very high ceilings.  This room could have been portrayed this way, as another example of how the father took great lengths to control his home environment.
             In conclusion, the Bechdel family home was kept very clean by the father to hide the flaws in his character.  The home was his shield to hide behind.  He desperately wanted to be someone else and enjoyed being with men instead of his own family but could not risk letting anyone know this about him. The family home was his grand masterpiece of deception, and the condition of his home was far more important than the condition of his family. 


  1. I thought you argument was very interesting! You definitely provided a decent amount of evidence for Bruce still indulging in his vices while in the facade of his perfect home. If you choose to revise this essay, I think you could focus it a bit more on just one of the arguments you support here. It would be interesting to go deeper into the argument about how his indiscretions are located in the same places he strives to make look flawless. If you revise this essay, I think you could provide even more evidence supporting this point e.g. hiding the picture of Roy with family photos.
    Alternatively, I think you could also further develop the point that Bruce used the home as a means for control. This could be supported with more examples from the text. Some aspects of this that could prove interesting would involve your analysis on how he treats his family. Arguing that he sees not only his home, but his family, as an avenue to have control could incorporate your discussion of how he does not seem to care for them.

  2. If he's just trying to present a false face to the outside world, why is the *upstairs* so elaborate? If anything, the library seems to the most unusual room.

    I understand your reading of Bechdel in the 2nd paragraph, but it's badly undercut (although not necessarily totally wrong - just much harder to prove) if you look up the book in question. Just glimpsing at it on Amazon shows that it's not exactly what you think it is, although it's assuredly relevant to her father.

    It's interesting that you touch on the library yourself - the significance as that being the site, seemingly, of some of his misdeeds is interesting. I would have liked to see you do more here.

    Kat's feedback is very good, and I agree with it. Sometimes through this essay I felt like you dwelt too much on obvious facts, without really trying to work towards what they collectively mean. Here's Kat: "It would be interesting to go deeper into the argument about how his indiscretions are located in the same places he strives to make look flawless. If you revise this essay, I think you could provide even more evidence supporting this point e.g. hiding the picture of Roy with family photos." It's not that you *need* to pick this particular argument - it's just that you don't really do as much as you can with this dark and interesting topic. The library is seemingly the epicenter of both his sins and his control - you dance around that rather than really working with it.