Inventing the Self

Fun Home and Rita Carter

October 8th, 2013 by Adam Wagner · 3 Comments

I really enjoyed “Fun Home” and the way Bechdel uses references from literary sources to fuel the development of the “characters.”  As I read Rita Carter’s chapters, I couldn’t help but mentally put Alison’s father through the Personality Wheel exercise.  The way he is described throughout “Fun Home” seemed to closely match the multiples Carter was describing.  In no way did I think of Mr. Bechdel as having MPD, however, he clearly displayed the ego-states of multiplicity of personality.  He seemed to move seamlessly between different personality types throughout the book, and that quality was apparent specifically in his character description.  The opening pages seem to set this up even from the title of the first chapter, “Old Father, Old Artificer.”  We can see the different disjunctive selves he had to maintain and understand the character through each: The English professor, the mortician, the father, the husband, the closet homosexual.  He seemed to display what would be classified as the Major-Minors multiple, however, although Major-Minors are often stable when each personality compliments each other, his closet homosexuality was in discordance with the rest.  This caused unrest in his personal life and might have ultimately, as Alison Bechdel suggests, caused his demise.


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3 responses so far ↓

  • Gabriel R. Seijo // Oct 8th 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I like the option that you recall in Bechdel of his multiplicity leading to his demise; it displays a perfect portrait of the capacity that personalities or imagoes can have in a negative sense. It also brings closer to view the fact that the ultimate goal of a theoretical practice influences deeply its standpoints, in the sense that McAdams’s rhetoric is constantly suggesting an improvement of the individual through its imagoes. Narrative Psychology should have the main goal of helping people cope with their realities, so in this sense is permeated with the capacity of success and improvement of identity. Finally, Carter’s rhetoric demonstrates the coexistence of negative and positive ego-states, how they can interact with each other and and how negative ones don’t necessarily have to end up negatively, and vice versa. With that said, Bechdel’s father seems as a perfect example of how the incapacity to express the “true self” can be completely limited by ones surroundings, habits, and material relations.

  • Jason Scaglione // Oct 9th 2013 at 9:42 am

    It is interesting to try and put Bechdel’s father into Carter’s personality wheel. It does seem like there is something discordant “within” him, but I wonder if it’s more a discordance with external structures moreso than internal.

    Gabriel above mentions that Bechdel’s father may be at odds with a capacity for adequate expression. I do believe something like this is necessary in human life, but also wonder if it is a “true self” that finds expression in our activities. If we are multiplicity, which self is true?

  • matthew finston // Oct 9th 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I agree that characterizing Mr. Bechdel as having MPD would be incorrect. Clearly, Allison is struggling with this notion of homosexuality as she is beginning to identify with and placing the same “label” on her father. It seems so easy to shroud Mr. Bechdel’s life within the framework of closet homosexuality, as if it were the only feature of his being. Rather, like you say, he is many things to many people: teacher, father, mortician, etc. It is almost as if Allison Bechdel is challenging our dominant notion of homonormative sexuality, wherein “coming out of the closet” is the only means of liberation.

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