Inventing the Self

Fun Home

October 8th, 2013 by Samantha Gamble · 5 Comments

Alison Bechdel’s Fun house brought me back to the conversation we had in class about multiple selves. Not everyone agreed with McAdams’ theory that we have many different imagoes and these imagoes appear at different times in our lives. McAdams also believed that our imagoes “are often embodies in external role models and other significant persons in our adult lives” (123). The character of the father in Bechdel’s autobiographical narrative was representative of McAdam’s theory in that she presented him as having multiple identities. Bechdel question her own identity in connection with her father’s. After his death, she began to feel that she may have taken on her father’s homosexual “imagoe.”

Outside of his home, Bechdel’s father was a teacher, family man who took his wife and children to church, and a funeral director. In his personal life, he was obsessive decorator, a closet homosexual, a dictator, and a pedophile. The father lived his roles so well that Bechdel only learned that he was homosexual after she revealed her homosexuality to her mother.

Once Bechdel became aware of her father’s homosexuality, she then began to examine moments that were missed, like her father’s relationship with the babysitter. She then began to examine how her homosexuality was connected to her father’s homosexuality. She began to see her sexuality as a mirror image of her father’s sexuality; the more feminine her father became, the more masculine she became.


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5 responses so far ↓

  • Shona Mari Sapphire // Oct 8th 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Response to Samantha Gamble:
    I also thought the correlation between Bechdel’s understanding of her sexuality arising as she began to learn the components of her father’s sexual history, habits and events was very interesting. The influence of her father on the development of her sense of self is present in terms of Bechdel’s interests academically, artistically and over the struggle to understand her sexuality. His internal conflict with integrating the differentiated aspects of his identity seemed to imprint upon her a desire to understand and resolve this unrest which affected her and the entire family. It seems Bechdel was able to realize the strength of her personhood, in coming to terms with the multiplicity of her own personality, which was never enjoyed by her father. Bechdel depicts this discontinuity, or inability to decipher the “degree of separation” of one’s personalities, (Carter offers in the Personality Wheel test), often with the manner in which the graphics and square word boxes are in what McAdams calls “Parallel” –or non-intersecting relationship. The text in the square box often reveals Bechdel’s reflective understanding of her identity, which was absent during the time when the events being depicted actually took place.

  • Gabriel R. Seijo // Oct 8th 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Your reaction to Bechdel’s journey towards her realization of self, made me think of the conscious/unconscious juxtaposition or binary relationship. As far as we’ve read, consciousness and unconsciousness have seemed as two events that don’t necessarily happen at the same time. An individual is either conscious or unconscious. Carter’s explanation of multiplicity opens the door towards the understanding of unconscious shifts in personality. Bechdel’s process towards the identification of her father’s and her homosexuality show how our behavioral patterns and those of others can come and go without recognition, how unconscious actions can pass unobserved. If the achievement of a definition and understanding of the conscious self always seems to reach a dead end, unconsciousness seems like tunnel without any light at the end of it.

  • Jason Scaglione // Oct 9th 2013 at 10:09 am

    Good summary. Bechdel’s style worked strongly with the story she was telling, paralleling the development of her sexuality with her discovery of her fathers. The last several pages, relaying a kind of culmination to it all with that brief conversation in the car, I felt were particularly affective. I find it interesting to think about how a balance of masculine and feminine fits into the kind of multiplicitive “self” we’ve been reviewing in class and in readings. Are masculinity and femininity just traits that each self “has”? They seem like so much more in Bechdel’s Fun Home.

  • Samantha Gamble // Oct 9th 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I guess I was using masculinity and femininity to mean more than just appearance. Bechdel and her father seemed to embody it so well that it became one of there imagoes. Her father’s love of flowers and decorating the home, and her obsession with the male body and wanting to embody that. The way she drew the images of herself, with the short hair and boyish stance, I thought it was a boy at first. Even the way she envisioned cartoon self was a person who was uncomfortable in her female body. Her portrayal was herself as male and her father as female.

  • Kristina Bodetti // Oct 9th 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I appreciate your connection of Fun Home to last weeks readings and discussion because that is what came to my mind also during my reading. The idea of multiple selves is something so prevalent in society, the kind of thing we all know is going on and participate in but we don’t talk about or examine it much. In Fun Home Bechdel had a rare opportunity to examine the multiple personas of both herself and her father.

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