Monday, September 22, 2014

Not so Fun Home

            Not every family is normal. Some have only one parent, some have grandparents in the mix, some feature same sex parents, there may be abuse, may be spoiling, poverty and the Bechdel family had quite the unique dynamic. In Fun Home Alison Bechdel recounts this story through the comic book medium. After only reading the first half, one can understand how this unique family life came into fruition. The head of the household was the Father and the way he prioritized his life caused many problems within the family. The fact that he cared more for how the wallpaper looked rather than how his kids feel was what seemed to be the main issue.
            The father was an English teacher who also helped with a funeral home. Those two professions are radically different than an interior designer and landscaper, which were his true passion. His whole adult life was essentially spent perfecting his home. Looking at the words of the story, this is the conclusion that would be drawn. However, looking at the images a drastically different view can be taken. After considering how Alison Bechdel illustrated her frames is leads one to believe the father was living a secret homosexual life and his strive to perfecting his environment is due to his inability to control his secret life.
            To live a lie is a very detrimental act on your interaction with others. The father could not fully express his innate love for his children. As many images show, the father has a stoic expression. Even while trying to fix the house, trim the hedges all that is done, his face remained blank faced. If something takes up almost all your time, something that is essentially all optional, why would it cause no joy? This may be because all of what he does is simply a façade.
            While the father wanted to live his true life, he had to hide it from his family, so he did all he could to express his sexual orientation throughout the design of the house. As Alison put it “What kind of man but a sissy could possible love flowers this ardently” (Bechdel 90)? This fascination with flowers may be his way of trying to plant his feelings away and hope they grow and bud into a new beautiful plant. Which could be his attempt at trying to hide his secret in a way that it may grow into something else more innocent.
            All of his life he was hidden away somehow. Looking through the first half, one will notice the father is doing one of two things, working or reading. Hardly ever though, will there be a smile on his face. Even when the grandma tells the story of him as a child getting stuck in mud, his expression is stone cold. His emotions mirrored that of his obelisk collection, stone like. The obelisk also interesting since it symbolizes, according to him, life; but also is a phallic symbol of sorts while also being his headstone at the cemetery. All of this adds up to describe the father in an abstract way. He is a resigned figure that has a hidden life. The obelisk is a stone figure head that covers his corpse six feet underground. He is hiding his life six feet within himself, doing all he can to cover up how he truly is.
            The happiest the father ever looked was on page 120. The illustration is of several photos of Alison’s father when younger. She attributes one of him in a bathing suit to possibly being part of a fraternity prank. However, she points out that most boys in fraternities when carrying out a prank, would feel slightly uncomfortable or just be quite silly about it; her father seems to be “lissome, elegant” (Bechdel 120). He seems to only be comfortable once finally able to express himself fully. Another photo shows what may be the first smile on his face in the book. It depicts him sunbathing and possibly with his lover, when compared to a photo of herself smiling with the same exuberance on her birthday as her lover took the pic. She makes it seem like together they are parallels and gives an insight into how her father feels.
            Overall, every action and symbol of Alison Bechdels father’s life was an attempt to conceal the feelings inside. He had homosexual affairs, yet was married with two kids. He attempted to bury away his feelings by planting flowers, collecting obelisks, painting the shingles, rolling on wallpaper, organizing rooms. Every which way to keep himself busy, including whisking off into a book with any downtime. The efforts he put into hiding his life ultimately hurt his families. The mother a once exuberant woman with dreams of traveling the world into looking perpetually unapproachable and unhappy. She must have felt the repercussive effects of the dulled love from her husband. Even, the father himself could no longer handle how he was living his life, with possibly taking his life at 44.   

1 comment:

  1. Your first paragraph doesn't do enough - the thesis is a little obvious, and the preceding material is totally unnecessary. I like your emphasis on how *both* of his professions differ from his passion, but you drift back into very obvious material again: "After considering how Alison Bechdel illustrated her frames is leads one to believe the father was living a secret homosexual life and his strive to perfecting his environment is due to his inability to control his secret life." -- This is a statement of the obvious, nothing resembling an actual argument.

    You finally get into something that isn't totally obvious with your discussion of the obelisk. That it's a phallic symbol, of course, is obvious, but it's less obvious what it means, and it would be interesting to see you explore it. Does a phallic symbol have a special meaning for a man living his particular, closeted life? I think that's what you want to argue, but it's not totally coherent.

    The observation that he looks at his happiest when he's a young man wearing a woman's bathing suit is also obvious. That doesn't mean it would be a bad start to an argument, but you can't just state that he's living a closeted life and leave it at that - that's plot summary. It's also obvious that his closeted life does tremendous damage. But what do the details of that life mean? Why does he express himself so strangely and dramatically through the house? Can you relate certain details of the house, for instance, to the image of him in the bathing suit? That's still not quite an argument, but it's taking us closer to one, at least.

    Overall: There's no real argument here - it's all obvious enough that it verges on being plot summary.