Monday, September 22, 2014

Prompt 2: Escape to The World of Flowers

In Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, the author's father has two jobs designated by society: a mortician at the “fun home”, the funeral home and a father at the “gothic palace”, their family home. He feels obligated to do these jobs but approaches them with minimal efforts. In other words, he shows up for work but disengages his mind from them during work as much as possible. To him, the roles of a mortician and a father confine him from being who he is and who he could be: a free spirited poet and a homosexual. Planting, decorating and arranging flowers are his escape from this reality. His obsession with flowers diverts his mind from his duties. By devoting himself to flowers, he is a step closer to his ideal self and away from his real life. 

By day, the author's father is the mortician in a small town. This is a stable family business that pays the bills to support his family but far from what he envisions his career could be. He identifies himself as American author and poet Scott Fitzgerald and wishes for a life like Fitzgerald--adventurous, free-spirited, and fierce pursuit for love. On location 33, an artwork shows the author's father arranging the flowers delivered by the florists at the “fun home”; “ugly as they were, their quick, damp scent masked the odor of formaldehyde” (Location 33). This is a metaphor to his opinion on his job. He hates the ugly flowers, but he hates being a mortician much more. By taking time to fix the flowers, he is able to free his mind from his occupation. During this very moment, he is expressing himself artistically, bringing him closer to his idol Fitzgerald.

After his day job at the fun home, the author's father returns home where he is expected at his other occupation--a father. Again, he relies on flowers to escape his responsibilities. His house is an “efflorescence of bulbs, buds, and blooms, flowers wild and cultivated, native and imported, flowering vines and trees” (location 32). To have flowers bloom all year all requires the gardener to take care of the different kinds of flowers all year long; the imported species demand more attention and upkeep than indigenous species. Furthermore, maintaining this sheer volume of flowers requires a tremendous amount of time to properly water, weed, and cultivate. The author's father chooses to dedicate his free time to gardening around his house instead of spending time with his children because again, doing so relieve him from his role of a masculine father. Instead, it allows him to express his femininity. During the rare case that he does throw a ball around with his children, the game would immediately comes to a stop as soon as the ball rolls near one of his flowers, “there my father would become lost to us in a revert of weeding” (location 33). Playing baseball with his children is a going beyond his minimal effort approach to parenting because the game bonds the players. He, on the other hand, wishes to distance himself emotionally as much as possible because his kids are reminders for the person he is not. Therefore, when the ball appears to roll near his flowers, he conveniently excuses himself to disengage from the unpleasant “reminders”.

Inside the “gothic palace”, the author’s father also turns to flowers for his rescue when he is expected to fulfill his fatherly duties. For example, location 33 shows an artwork of him painting twinning roses on the eggs at the dinner table during Easter.  Holidays are times of family gathering and celebration. In a normal family, members usually ask about each other's lives, tell stories and make jokes. It is not the case in the author's family. From the picture, you can tell that her father is highly concentrated on painting flowers on the eggs with a tiny brush. Such detail orientated and delicate task cannot be preformed without extreme concentration, allowing him to not to communicate or interact with his wife or children. 

Arranging, planting and decorating flowers require lots of time and attention just like jobs and bringing up children. The author’s father's chooses to do devote his time to flowers instead of his job and family. It is his escape from the duties that the society has given him as a mortician and a father.


  1. Overall, I liked that you spoke about both the fun home and the family home. At the end of the first paragraph, you mentioned Bruce Bechdel’s obsession with flowers several times. This segues nicely into your main thesis about flowers being an outlet for his homosexuality. I thought your second paragraph about the ugly flowers and Fitzgerald was extremely thought provoking. Then, you moved on to explain how caring for his many flowers relived him of his masculine duties as a father. This was a great point.

    Furthermore, I liked that you focused on an element inside of the home that not many people would have thought to analyze. I thought this was an excellent essay and you did a wonderful job of analyzing the use of flowers in the story. In a revision, you could make one very long essay by expanding on each of your paragraphs even further. Or, you could choose one of your scenes, or even just one of the homes, and analyze that in great depth. Picking either his role of being a father or his role of being a mortician would help to specify your essay. Personally, I think that you could get more content from writing about his role as a father. Either way, I think that you could provide enough research and evidence to create a great paper.

  2. I like the title. I also like how you begin with his professions, treating them as a problem. You could have expressed your thesis more clearly - I'm having trouble deciding whether you're restating the obvious, or doing something a little more interesting. We'll see how it develops.

    Your note about how he arranges the flowers at the funeral home is good in itself, but I think it's a bit of a leap to connect it directly to Fitzgerald - there's a missing piece here.

    Here's a question - if the flowers are all about escape (you have a point, and you're going about that effectively), how does that relate to the more customary ways we use flowers. In other words, flowers are often used to signify love & sexuality- what do you make of the fact that he's using them to establish distance from his work & family?

    It's silly, but I'd never really thought about the role of flowers inside the house before - good point.

    Overall: Your beginning is a little long-winded and your ending is a little abrupt, but your attention to detail is good, and you are convincing me of the importance & interest of your topic. But there isn't as much as there could be about what it all means. Why use flowers to signify distance and coldness? What does that mean? In other words, if you revise I'd like you to do more to bridge the more generic meaning of flowers and their very unusual meaning within *this* text.