Monday, September 22, 2014

Bechdel - Unstable Reality

In the book Fun Home, Bechdel’s father uses the house as a crutch to keep his life composed.  The ways he improves the house symbolizes his personal emotions which he doesn’t exhibit externally.  There is a superficial technique that he uses to construct the house.  He often transforms objects from the trash into something beautiful.  Cost effectiveness is a smart attribute, but there is a sense that he is falsifying the object by changing it into something that it isn’t.  Decorating the house in this manner acts like a mask that hides what is truly real.  There is an interesting interpretation in one of the images on page 10.   It shows the father lifting a flagstone, but the shadow behind him does not match with his lifting position.  This shows that he has an underlying motive for the task and someone else is actually doing the work. 
Bechdel’s father gave off a feminine persona with interests in flowers, decorating, and clothing appearance.    Most of the materials he picked for the house were soft like velvet.  Along with the garden of flowers, he kept vases of flowers around the house.  The father couldn’t freely express his interests in public, so he transposed them onto the house and his family.  Eventually the reader finds out that father has a homosexual relationship with several people.  This could be where some of his qualities emerge.  The father also has an obnoxiously large bookshelf in the library.  The importance is shown in how large it is and how often he loans books to people.  When he reads, he puts himself in the character shoes and lives their life.  The outlet of living the life of someone else is where he really saw as satisfaction.
The attributes of the house were of an old and wealthy family.  Other kids marvel at the sight of the house, but Bechdel sees it as just a normal house.  The father focused on items rich people would own for control of the past and wealth.  He uses auction catalogs for ideas on what to put in the house.  Input from the family is quickly tossed aside which shows his deception of their cooperation.  The children often complained about the intricate furniture being hard to dust.  Bechdel resented all of this and goes as far as to say she wants to grow up in a metal house.  The father even uses the house to control the guests that he invites.  People often get disoriented with all the mirrors, statues, and multiple doorways setup around the house.  This is linked to the story of the Minotaur in the labyrinth.  She goes on to say the labyrinth is, “A maze of passages and rooms opening endlessly into one another…” which is eerily similar to the house.  The people in the Minotaur story are trapped and never escape.  She combines this part of the story with her father throwing a plate on the floor.  This implies that the father is the Minotaur and she doesn’t know when he will act this way.
There is an image of him carrying a post is similar to that of Jesus carrying the cross.  This shows the significance of the house and what it represents to the father.  He is always striving and sacrificing to reach the goal of being content with his life.  It is something that he loves, but also is a burden to him and his family.  Bechdel uses the words “passion”, “manic”, and “martyered” to describe her father’s relationship with the house.  He uses his family as workers to help fulfill his jobs around the house.
Sometimes changing the house is not enough control and brings out emotions of anger towards family.  He disciplines the children for moving a vase slightly out of place.  The father threatens Bechdel because she kept refusing to wear the hair clip.  It is evident that he knows Bechdel is not similar to other girls.  She wants to dress differently, has odd interests, and experiments with sexuality books.  It is as if the father is confined to what is socially acceptable and therefore makes his daughter follow the same rules.  Bechdel points out that in public, her father comes off as an ideal husband and father.  Putting up a front to mislead the community to what was really going on in the family. 
         Even after all the efforts to improve the house, satisfaction for his work still doesn’t seem to be enough for him.  There is always something that needs to be readjusted to suit his needs.  The results of his work are welcomed with him saying “slightly perfect.”  The wording implies that perfect is never obtainable in his eyes and he will never be content with his changes.


  1. You bring up an interesting point with the picture on page 10 and I think you could even talk a little bit more about that in a possible revision. A more detailed analysis of this image could offer a jumping off point into some of your other topics. I liked the points you brought up in your second paragraph, but I think you could split it into two separate paragraphs. I feel that the flowers and the bookshelves are both important, but they seem a bit unrelated in one paragraph. If you did not want to make it two paragraphs, perhaps a sentence or two of transition would help bring the thoughts together. I think you could eliminate the paragraph about Bechdel and the Minotaur. I am not sure it is needed in your argument, and eliminating this section would give you room for more detailed analysis of the other great examples you use.
    I am unsure about what exactly your thesis is. I think you have very good points laid out, and you explain your examples well, but I had trouble pin pointing a specific thesis statement. At one point you were talking about Mr. Bechdel hiding his different emotions and feelings, and at a different part of the essay you were discussing his need for control. Are the two ideas connected? If so, I believe that would make a very interesting paper topic for a revision. If not, you have a lot of information in your hands you just need to construct a strong thesis to outline exactly what your argument is. Overall though, you raised very interesting points and I felt your paper was well thought out.

  2. There's a lot going on in your first paragraph. I wish it was a little more focused, but parts of it are great. "He often transforms objects from the trash into something beautiful. Cost effectiveness is a smart attribute, but there is a sense that he is falsifying the object by changing it into something that it isn’t. " -- I also wonder if the garbage into gold idea also refers to some other element of his character. A determination to create beauty out of a sordid and hidden life?

    I think you're trying to connect what he does with this house to what he does as a fairly obsessive reader. That's certainly not a bad idea, but it's also not complete.

    The next several paragraphs are problematic. You're saying a lot of fairly obvious things. Yes, he looks like Jesus in one panel; yes, Bechdel connects him both to Daedalus and the minotaur (how do you make sense of him being both at once, by the way). Yes, he can't actually control himself through the house. But I have trouble seeing how all of those observations really connect into an argument.

    Then, just when I think you've lost the thread completely, you make the striking note about what it means that he says: "slightly perfect." It's a good observation which at least loosely connects with the other things you've had to say. In a revision, you might very well want to put this at the beginning, rather than at the end - if you think that phrase "slightly perfect" gives us a deeper insight into his character you should push it and develop it. That's still not quite a clear argument, but it sure puts us in the direction of one.

    Inicidentally, Audrey and I seem to be on more or less on the same page here - lots of interesting material, but we need a clearer thesis.