Bechdel’s graphic style introduces the reader to a lot of odd contrasts, especially looking at pages 40-54, when we read about her experience at the time of her father’s death and funeral. Her tone is dry and very matter-of-fact as she describes the events. Her face is emotionless in the vast majority of these images as well. Yet the idea of a father’s death, in a larger view, is the opposite of this emotionless state. Death of any close family member should come with depression, or at least tears. Bechdel brings us a different experience, which forces us to look deeper to understand her feelings. Lack of response could mean a state of shock and disbelief, but I think in this case, we see the personality of both Bechdel and her father. Emotion was not a part of their relationship during his life, and I think conveying a lack of emotion in his death shows that dimension of the relationship really well.
Blake begins the poem Tyger by describing the beauty of a tiger's eyes and quickly moves on to the questioning of its maker it and origin. This poem mirrors the poem Lamb from the Songs of Innocence, which questions the maker of lambs. Starting from the second stanza, Blake goes into more detailed speculation on the creation of tigers: what sinister workmanship could "twist the sinews of thy heart", "furnace was thy brain", and "dare its deadly terrors clasp"? Designing and constructing a creature capable of such destruction is no accident, so what could God's intention behind it be? Essentially, Blake wants us to ponder what does the coexistence of good and evil reveals the nature of god?This poem poses a few questions: If god made humans, who are amazing and sophisticated beings yet could be destructive and vicious at the same time, what are his intentions? and does that reflect god's image himself?
Blake's poem The Poison Tree is interesting in a few ways. On the surface I feel this poem was easier to interpret than some of his other poems in Songs Of Experience, however I believe there may be a deeper meaning within the text and the image. Blake talks about how he hides his true hatred for his enemy with "smiles and with soft deceitful wiles", so his enemy is not even aware of Blake's Feelings. Meanwhile, his hatred grew along with the poison apple. A connection can be made to the story of Adam and Eve. The pair were deceived by the devil into sinning so God sent Jesus to save us from sin. In a way, Blake takes the position of the serpent (or the devil) in the Garden of Eden, in that he fools his naive enemy into eating the forbidden fruit. The image accompanying the poem is also very deceiving. It seems to be quite a literal interpretation of the text, but I believe there may be some hidden references. If you look closely at the image, the person's arms are outstretched in a manor that reminds me of the image of Jesus on the cross. Remembering that in the poem, Blake seems to embody the serpent from Adam and Eve, it makes sense that the image would depict a likeness to Jesus because he had to die for human sin. Could the poem be referencing the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus? Do you think Blake meant to put himself in the point of view of the devil? If so, why would he do that?
While reading Blake’s, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, I was interested in the one poem titled “The Little Vagabond”. In the beginning of the poem a church is described as a cold place and the alehouse is refereed to as a “pleasant & warm” place. Then it goes on to say that if there was ale served in the church they would not want to leave, and they would pray all day long. The picture that accompanies the poem shows a God like figure protecting a person on the top of the page, possibly because we think of heaven as above us. In contrast, on the bottom of the page is a fire, with a person sitting near it, which looks like they are hurting or possibly hung over. The poem suggests that if ale were available in the church, God would no longer have conflicts with the Devil and the Barrel. I thought this was an interesting concept of how serving ale in a church would then result in the resolution of God’s conflicts. To me, this idea could lead to problems in the church and seems like wishful thinking on Blake’s part. Also, the title of the poem refers to a person that wanders without a home, and I believe this could be why they would want to combine the alehouse and the church. Many people could be torn between going to church and going to the alehouse. If they were combined, this would give some people a home, because they would no longer feel guilty in church about drinking at the alehouse.
What I found extremely interesting about Fun Home was the juxtaposition between what the comic showed and the text surrounding it. Often, the text merely narrated what was occurring within the picture. The pictures usually added more insight into how the characters felt toward what was happening, as they portrayed facial expressions and posture in a way that text could not. However, there were many occasions where the text was extremely divergent from the pictures. The references to literature that Bechdel introduced as parallels to her own story greatly enriched the story. One of the first instances of this to catch my attention was the story of Icarus. Bechdel intertwined this myth with accounts of her father’s dedication to historical restoration. The pictures of her father involved with home decorating juxtaposed with this legendary myth allows viewers to understand the extent to which Alison’s father cares for his home.
Bruce Bechdel possesses the uncanny desire to beautify anything that he can. What begins with a fascination on the architecture and design of his home ultimately ends with the need to physically fix anything that he can. For example, he takes over his father’s position as a mortician at the Bechdel Funeral Home and beautifies the dead in order to fix their lifeless and ugly faces for the funeral. He also fixes the minds of his students and other acquaintances by lending them works of literature that are meaningful and thought provoking. The need to fix all these things physically shows Bruce’s opinion of his broken family relationship that needs to be fixed. Why doesn’t Bruce try to fix the relationship with the family when he feels the need to fix everything else in his life? Does the lack of control that he feels with his family and their opinions lead to his suicide?
As I read through the Songs of Experience, I was trying to find similarities and differences to the Songs of Innocence. One unique aspect of Experience that is not seen in Innocence, is the random capitalization that appears in the titles. It is often sporadic and I cannot seem to understand why Blake chooses to use it in certain areas. For example, the boy and girl are capitalized in A Little BOY Lost and A Little GIRL lost, but in The Little Girl Lost the title is shown in classic capitalization. I thought it was strange that Blake picked words (probably not completely at random) to capitalize in Experience, but never did so in Innocence. Usually capitalization is a way to emphasize a subject, but the way he sometimes capitalizes a whole title like in HOLY THURSDAY seems to stray away from the typical use. I also found it interesting that sometimes Blake chooses not to capitalize any words in the titles, where I would think some would be emphasized. For instance, The Tyger, is not capitalized. I am curious as to how and when he picked the full capitalization of words.
I think it’s interesting how Bechdel’s graphic memoir took on a serious topic, but used a medium in which I usually relate to fun topics, such as superhero comics. I feel it worked, though, because her illustrations allowed for a deeper understanding of what was going on and it also added some comedic relief. I also noticed the detail within the character’s faces, especially on Allison’s father. No one ever seemed to be particularly happy. They had sharp facial lines and solemn looking eyes. I think this represents the serious tone of the story, harking on the complicated topics of queerness and family affairs. It can be seen on pages 77-79, when Allison speaks to her mother about being a lesbian and about her father’s homosexual acts. I also noticed three types of narrative within the story. There are visuals, dialogue coming from the characters, commentary seen above the image boxes, and a narrative from Allison herself, which can be seen in the rectangle boxes within the images. I think each of these elements help to tell the story in a dynamic and multi-layered way. I also really enjoyed the inclusion of excerpts from her real journal. It proved evidence to these events and feelings actually happening.
An interesting point in Bechdel's Fun Home is the overall lack of emotion that Bechdel expresses throughout the book. Most of the images of her at various ages are either stoic or angry, and the comments next to the photos are filled with cynicism. Whenever she is revealing something significant that would illicit a response from the reader she does so with a matter-of-factness that seems unnatural. She doesn't tell it with the air of someone that has said it too many times to have emotion for it, but more like the emotion was just never there to begin with. For example, when she discovers the photos of Roy in the box of vacation photos and it is implied that they have meaning other than just a simple photograph Bechdel shows no indignation that they are in the same box as pictures of her and her brothers or any emotion at all. She just acknowledges that they exist and that it is one more sign of her father's lie.
The Songs of Experience by William Blake are a collection of poems that are not only more experienced pieces of work, but also represent life in a more experienced manor. A lot of the poems are also contrasting ones from the Songs of Innocence. For example, “Infant Joy” from Songs of Innocence is an innocent look on life, whereas “Infant Sorrow” from Songs of Experience is not. “Infant Joy” like the name would suggest, is about the joys of being born into the world. This shows a naïve and shelter point of view that an infant has when born. However, “Infant Sorrow” shows a baby that knows that its parents do not want it and that the world is dangerous. This is obviously not realistic since it is a more experienced point of view of life that a baby cannot have. However, the painting for this poem is bright and vibrant which could be used to present some form of realism or at least what Blake wants to be real.
I do hope this is not too confusing. There is an interesting thing I noticed in Blake's "Little Boy/Girl Lost/Found" poems. First I noticed were that there were two different poems each with the names "Little Boy Lost" and "Little Girl Lost", and the second of each was not accompanied by a found poem. In Songs of Innocence, "Little Boy Lost" was about a boy who got physically lost, and in "Little Boy Found" he was found and brought back safely by an angel. Then, in Songs of Experience, the "Little Girl Lost/Found" was about a girl who got physically lost but instead of being found by angels, she was found by dangerous beasts. Said beasts contrast the more divine savoir of the boy. The second set of poems of "Little Boy/Girl Lost", however, seemed to be about a boy and girl who were lost spiritually instead of physically. With this distinction, neither one is "Found". In fact, getting lost spiritually seems to end rather badly for them.
I have to say I like the Songs of Experience more. It is interesting that there are poems talked about "Little Girl Lost/ Found", compared to "Little Boy Lost/Found" in Songs of Innocence. What do we lose? The little boy lost in a dark wood; he cannot find his father. The little girl's story is a little bit more complicated than the little boy. It is more likely to say that she lost in a dream, and from my point of views she did not wake up --- found herself actually. For me. Songs of Experience is more reality and cruel than Songs of Innocence. I like the Songs of Experience since we need to grow up, keep innocence is not good for me adapt to the society.
One of the most disturbing of all the poems for me was the striking turn around in “The Clod and the Pebble”. Blake completely flipped the meaning of love using only twelve lines. What was so striking was that this was one of the earlier poems in the Experience half of the book. Seeing as simple and easy-going the innocence poems were, I did not expect such a pessimistic view in Experience. As we discussed in class, during certain poems in the Songs of Innocence, Blake hinted ever so slightly about experience, and growing up leaving innocence behind. For the Songs of Experience, I feel as though innocence is not given that same courtesy.Using “The Clod and the Pebble” specifically, Blake uses the perfect example of love to represent the innocence. Love is commonly recognized and something pure and untainted. People strive to find true love, or honor relatives through familiar love. Heroes and heroines are known for jumping through flames in order to prove how true their love is for someone else. As Blake puts it, love “builds a Heaven in Hells despair” (Blake 32). Love is accepted widely as something that is beautiful and unadulterated; mirroring the idea of innocence Blake conveys through his use of children and youth. In this poem he paints a picture of how experience can deteriorate any thought of innocence in seconds.The key to the message is the mirroring of the wording and phrases he uses. On the surface, it is extremely similar especially in the physical structure of the writing. I think the common sentences are what make it so devastating. The clod is representing the pure naivety of true love and the faith we put into love when we do not know better. Love is meant to be a haven, an object of safety, or envy even.Then comes the pebble. The small item that has probably been traveling up and down the brook, experiencing all different types of environments, animals, or objects. The pebble has the completely opposite opinion of the faithful clod of clay. Blake is showing how experience can manipulate even the purest of emotions. For me, Blake was sending a message to cherish the times when love still looked pure, when ideas were not muddled with previous experiences. Blake may be putting into writing the dangers of taking innocence for granted.
The characters in Bechdel’s book Fun Home show their emotions in a strange way. Situations such as people dieing, cadavers being cut open, and family affection were dulled. It was as if past experiences of the father shaped him into the person he was and in turn had influences on how the children were raised. The children tried to be playful, page 37, but their father was always there to put them back in order. Bechdel has a struggle with her sexuality and displaying it in front of the family. This struggle could be transferred to her reasoning for her father’s death. She points many reasons her father could have been killed. Some theories were that he could have seen a large snake, writing the letter to her parents saying she is a lesbian, or the fact he was highlighting books about suicide. All these point to uncertainty and having trouble with her emotions.
I found the dynamic of death and the Bechdel children to be an interesting and complex one. Allison and her siblings have been desensitized to the wave of emotions normally accompanying a family member’s, and the concept of death in general. Conditioned since their youth, and time spent at the Fun House, the morbid reality of death elicited a different reaction in the Bechdel siblings. Seen most prominently in Allison, when beckoned by her father back into the embalming room where she sees her first un-doctored corpse, she was not phased and even viewed this opportunity into the enigmatic embalming chamber as a test by her father. Even her eerie view of her father speaks to the abnormality of their child-parent relationship. “Who embalms the undertaker when he dies?” (Chapter 2).
Reading through the Songs of Experience it is obviously a much darker set of poems. They were finished several years after Songs of Innocence, yet still connected. The main theme addressed is the contrast between human suffering and selfishness with love. There is a lot of flak for being a lover when not traditionally married, which at the time is a much larger issue than now. The images of all poems are much darker and colder. Most specifically "The Chimney Sweeper". Its about a young boy sent to do the chimney sweeping job. When compared to the version in Innocence, its much sadder. The boy is not set free to dance and smile, instrad he "sings songs of woe" as his parents go to church without any remorse. The image of the boy covered in soot walking through the snowy cold roofs is much different than the green setting and dancing boys of the first.
Blake's Songs of Experience completely contrast to his Songs of Innocence. He reveals a dark, cynical view of adulthood and those who are no longer naive to the negatives in the world. However imagery and structures of the poems support or contrast each other in Songs of Experience as well. Specifically in the poem London, the poem shows the darkness of the city, however the imagery is full of hope for the future.