The narrator and author of Fun Home, Alison Bechdel, believes that she is partially at fault for her father’s suicide. Bechdel explains that her father was not the typical man and how she often stepped in for the manly qualities that he lacked. Her father would do the same for her. The Bechdel family home is the Bruce’s masterpiece. He spends countless hours and efforts into creating a house where he can have a foundation to support and express himself while he represses his homosexuality. Because Alison’s childhood house is a manifestation of her father himself, she lacks a home throughout her childhood, which ultimately leads to Alison’s self-blame for her father’s suicide.
Alison’s discontent with her family home begins with her room. On page seven, Alison’s father shows her the wallpaper for her room and does not care that she hates both the pattern and the color of the wallpaper. A sense of privacy comes with having a room to call one’s own and that privacy usually includes freedom for expression as well. Alison states, “I hate this room” when she is hanging a mirror in her room while her father gazes to make sure that it is up properly (Bechdel, 14). Alison’s father is the designer of every aspect of the Bechdel family home and does not consider the opinions of the other members, therefore limiting the creative expressions of the whole family. After page 14, Bechdel rarely draws herself in her room or mention her room again. This shows how Alison did not really consider her room a space of her own, but a space of her father’s, and did not spend very much time there. Alison lacked the normal expression that children receive from their own rooms due to due to limitations in creativity and opinion. This takes away the mental feeling of belonging and removes the home feeling away from a location.
At the age of ten, Alison developed obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her disordered state is shown primarily at the Bechdel family home. Alison’s actions with her obsessive-compulsive disorder show her unease with her family and home life. The constant counting, hand gestures, and placement of shoes show how she is yearning for a “perfect” environment at home. For example, Alison did not like odd numbers. Her dislike of odd numbers shows how she felt like the odd one out at home and did not want it to be that way. Alison draws herself kissing a stuffed animal in her room and states the following, “Though it verges on bathetic, I should point out that no one had kissed me good night in years” (Bechdel, 137). The lack of love that Alison lacked during her childhood creates the feeling of unease and makes a home seem artificial at best. On pages 138 to 139, Alison is shown reading while her father gets home late. Even with all the chaos of her parents fighting, Alison remains calm and continues reading, which shows that she is trying to ignore the family problems around her. Alison does not want to believe that her life at home is chaotic. By ignoring the eminent problems around her, Alison creates an ideal image of a home in her mind in order to make up for the lack of home that she experiences in her childhood.
Alison is not the only one in the Bechdel family that lacks a home. Alison states the following, “…I learned quickly to feed myself” (Bechdel, 134). All of the members of the Bechdel family are self-reliant in order to stay sane in their house. Page 216 shows a diminishing family dinner soon after Alison returns from college. A connected family in a home would be focused on Alison’s experiences and not filler activities like the Bechdels state here. The family rarely takes part in activities together unless it is a house maintaining activities commanded by Bruce Bechdel. Consider the following opinion from a literary review, “Instead, Bruce Bechdel lived in a constant state of rage, a tyrant in his home, a "morally suspect" man who perceived his children as "extensions of his own body, like precision robot arms." The elder Bechdel was not only a victim of patriarchy and homophobia; he was also a purveyor of misogyny” (Merry Gangemi). All of the qualities of Bruce Bechdel as described by Gangemi are not of those desired for an ideal husband. Living with a person like Bruce Bechdel would create a lot of anxiety and fear in the household and therefore remove the positive feeling of a home. When members of the same family share nothing in common besides for the fear of the ruler of the house, all feel the effect of the lack of home environment. Consider pages 11 and 12 of Fun Home, when one of Alison’s brothers drops the Christmas tree, he exclaims, “Don’t hit me” (Bechdel, 11)! This shows the fear displayed by the members of the household and also validates Gangemi’s claim that “…man who perceived his children as “extensions of his own body, like precision robot arms.” When all of the members are trapped inside a house under Bruce’s command, viewing their personal jail as a home is impossible. In reality, Mrs. Bechdel has as much control over the house as her children do. After Bruce’s death, Mrs. Bechdel begins giving away and selling many of Bruce’s books because they mean nothing to her. The library was Bruce’s. Her own literary preferences came from the library because Mrs. Bechdel knew that they would have no place in Bruce’s library were she to keep them.
A major contender of Alison’s lack of childhood home is the relationship between her parents. Alison comments the following about her parents, “I witnessed only two gestures of affection between them” (Bechdel, 68). A positive, loving parental relationship gives children security and a sense of comfort in their home environment. When violent arguments break out between parents like Alison’s, children are often torn because they feel the need to choose either mom or dad’s side of the argument. Broken relationships among family members destroy and kind of foundation in a home and leave the occupants feeling uneasy and out of place. Bechdel shows that arguments between her parents were common through the long and tired face of her mother. She even uses passport comparisons to show the difference realistically. The proposed divorce two weeks before the father’s suicide is not a surprise to the reader, as Alison’s mother continues to appear exhausted and broken down throughout the graphic novel, worsening as time goes on. The relationship between Alison’s parents also supports the “purveyor of misogyny” claim from Gangemi. Even though Bruce Bechdel is not as much as a misogynist as Gangemi leads the reader to believe, he still shows some misogynist tendencies through violent arguments with his wife and ignoring her opinions in regards to the home proving that the house is more his than it is the rest of the family’s.
The relationship between the Bechdel house and the members of the family can be seen are reversely correlational. Their home begins as a building in shambles and evolves into an extravagant museum. Their family relationship begins with the love of two individuals and becomes a group of five who all tolerate each other and share the common emotion of fear. Because of this, the house is viewed by all the members of the family, especially Alison, as a place for shelter (or even a prison) rather than a home. The masterpiece of a house is Bruce’s repression of his sexuality as well as Alison’s. Alison only realizes that she is a lesbian when she is not living at home. This proves that Alison was unable to express herself at all due to the demeanor of her father. Alison believes that stating her sexuality to her parents is one of the causes of her father’s death, if it was a suicide, because it was a matter that Bruce could not control. Consider the chandelier scene in the beginning of the book. Bruce hears the family’s opinions about their distaste of the chandelier but chooses to ignore them because his opinion is the only one that matters when it comes down to his house and events happening there. With the overbearing presence of her father forcing her to be feminine, Alison did not realize her true sexual identity until she is free from Bruce’s grasp. On returning to the family home, Alison states, “It was not, at any rate, a triumphal return. Home, as I had known it, was gone” (Bechdel, 215). At this moment, Alison finally realizes that what she once thought was a home, is actually nothing close to one. If Alison did have a home as a child, her sexuality would have been discovered sooner as she would have had the privilege to express and understand herself.
The Bechdel home is a building full of artifacts that are all reminiscent of Bruce while the rest of the Bechdel family merely occupies its space. Without anything to connect to in the house, no place to express herself, and no connection with her family, Alison Bechdel did not have an enlightened childhood in a home. During the big storm, the house manages to remain unscathed. Alison phrases the resulting state of the house as a narrow escape. Wouldn’t the destruction of the house lead to the escape of the Bechdel family from the monster inside of it? The undamaged and “perfect” state of the house after the storm is the way others see the Bechdel family and the relationship between Alison’s parents. What they lack to see behind the impressive façade of the exterior is the chaos, misery, and monster existing in the interior. Alison, her two brothers, and her mother receive no benefits in living in the Bechdel home just as prisoners receive no benefits in living in jail. With so much fear and anxiety emitted during childhood because of her father, Alison partially blames herself for his death out of guilt resulting from finding a true home outside of the Bechdel family house. With this new home Alison learns how to control and accept her sexuality, skills that Bruce Bechdel never learned how to master in his lifetime.
Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.
Gangemi, Merry. "Alison Bechdel's Fun Home." Rev. of Fun Home. Off Our Backs 2007: 70-71, 86. ProQuest. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. <http://search.proquest.com/docview/197140438?pq-origsite=summon>.