Is Suicide a Solution to the Absurd?

The theme of death seems to be a common reoccurrence in this book. Obviously, we have Bruce Bechdel who has died to “unknown causes”. Death is also present because the Bechdel family runs a funeral home. On my blog post, I would like to focus more so on the coincidence between Bruce Bechdel death and the book The Myth of Sisyphus

Bruce Bechdel seems to have a connection with books of all sorts. While reading this first passage, I came across the author mentioning more books and the importance of books to Bruce, for example The Myth of Sisyphus or anything by Scott Fitzgerald. The reoccurrence of books does make me link clues to Bruce’s possible suicide to notes he has written in these books. 

The Myth of Sisyphus has lead me to think that this was Bruce’s biggest way into slightly telling his family that he was planning on killing himself. One of the main points of The Myth of Sisyphus is that there is always a conflict between what we want from the universe and what we actually get from it. I think that Bruce really craves perfection from the world he lives in. We see this in examples of how he constantly wants the exterior and interior of the house to fit his personal likings. He is trying to find ways to make it just right all the time. Also, because there is a lack of emotional bonding between him and his children, I think that he once expected something so much more of what he actually gets by having children and that is why he has this lack of love with them.  I feel as though Bruce expected a life that he quite exactly didn’t receive. 

We see that Bruce’s wife tells Alison that Bruce did have homosexual relationships while in the military. This is another point that would have to relate to the idea of The Myth of Sisyphus. He wanted a loving, healthy relationship but not with a women. He got the opposite out of the universe he wish he could have. 

As stated in A Fun Home, the line that Bruce did underline was about to what extent suicide was the solution to the absurd. Bruce lived a life full of disappointment in his eyes. I think that he constantly was trying to make things work for himself but got nowhere while doing that. He believed that he lived in a life of absurd and corruptions. To end this pain, he followed exactly what he thought the book told him to, commit suicide  Yet, in the long run, The Myth of Sisyphus ends with explaining that suicide is not the right answer. 

Because Bruce has this secret of being homosexual, I think that he finds his joy and happiness through reading books about people who do find light in the darkness of times. I think he also depends on books for guidance and reassurance. I think he became part of the book. By this I mean he wanted to live through the theories in the book or the characters Scott Fitzgerald writes about. 

Therefore, I do think that the connection between Bruce and books is very tightly knit. I think he gains insight from these books. He finds answers that he knew he could never ask anyone and that makes him satisfied. But, in the long run Bruce thinks that suicide is the only answer in order to end the absurdness he was living in. So, do you think that these books were purely coincidental or do you think that these books were the guidelines that Bruce wanted to live by? Did he really depend on books as his source of reasoning?

Caught in Fiction

The most important thing to analyze while reading this text is the way that Alison chooses to tell her story. She makes very bold, matter of fact statements about very important information but presents them in a very fast way as if they aren’t important at all. In the beginning of the book as we are introduced to her family it is obvious that there is some strange vibe in the family. This is no ordinary close, kind and considerate family when it came to their father. There seemed to be some disconnect. The first thing that is shown to us as the readers is Bruce’s love for the house and the precise decorations and overall vibe. On page 14, Alison states, “I grew to resent the way my father treated his furniture like children and his children like furniture.” Also, to be able to pick up on the overall tone of Bruce is very important. It becomes obvious that something is going wrong and upsetting him but we do not find out what it is until later on.  Allison gives us a reader another very important piece of information on page 17. She says, “He appeared to be an ideal husband and father, for example. But would an ideal husband and father have had sex with teenage boys? It’s tempting to suggest, in retrospect, that our family was a sham.” This page alone was system overload. Allison drops a huge bomb on the reader by giving  us this information but as swiftly as the moment came, it quickly goes away. She states the fact and moves on, explaining nothing. She does this a few times in the chapters that we read. On page 46 she reveals her sexual orientation to us by stating “As I told my girlfriend what happened…” Again, this information is new to the reader but as quickly as it was introduced it is thrown to the way side and she continues going on with what she was saying.

The relationships between family members seems to be based a great deal on works of literature. In ways we observe that Bruce and Allison may have some sort of bond, besides literature. Our first inclination that Allison and her father may have a distant relationship but some sort of bond is seen on page 19. Allison shows that she wants to show affection to her father in some way, even though it was awkward. I believe that Bruce answers or reciprocates this affection in unconventional ways, such as reading to her (page 21), bathing her (page 22), and inviting her in to the surgical (funeral prep) room at the fun house. These actions led me to believe that they had a bond, even though it wasn’t made conventionally apparent.

Chapter three seems to be the chapter that gives us a greater understanding of the family. Allison begins to go back and touch on some the information that she had stated in previous chapters. She begins to reveal information about Bruce and his homosexuality, along with marital problems between Bruce and her mother. She also gives us a better understanding into her sexuality and information about her relationship with her girlfriend. She tends to tell a part of the story of her life and then skip back to a later time in life (either hers or her fathers) and tell story and then come back and continue on. It’s almost like the further and further you read the more information you get by Allison going back and filling in the holes, then going back again and filling in more holes, and repeatedly doing this until we get the full story. Looping back repeatedly.

Another main issue of the book is the preference of a fiction to reality. When Alison was young was she just interpreting her father incorrectly due to her age? Was he not a cold, seemingly heartless father but rather a man trapped in his own “reality”? Or his own “fiction”? Was the bond between these two characters due to their shared sexual orientation? Was she her father’s daughter in the sense that she was born a homosexual and this was the unseen bond that they seemed to have when she was a child?

Another issue I wanted to present going off the statement of “the preference of a fiction to reality”. I believe this would be describing her fathers preference of having homosexual acts over the reality of having a wife and kids. Also that Bruce often got lost in the literature he read and adopted thoughts, feelings, or characteristics of the characters in the stories. This is apparent in his letters home when he was serving in the military and in the timing of his death. (Same number of months, same number of weeks, and the same age at the point of death as Fitzgerald.

Bruce Bechdel and the House He Hides Behind

After reading the first three chapters in the book Fun Home I noticed something that I found quite interesting about the illustrations of Bruce Bechdel. He is never smiling in any of the illustrations of him. He has this look that makes him seem like he is constantly mad at the world. Even the picture on the front of the book backs up the fact that he is unhappy. The cover shows him sitting on what looks like a pouch with his head turned the opposite way of his child in disgust.

After finding out that he was gay, I wonder if the artist chose to draw him this way because he was miserable with the life that he chose to have. A life of not being free about who he wanted to be but instead trapped behind bars (family) he never really wanted.

Everything about Bruce Bechdel makes it seem like he was depressed about the life he was hiding behind. For example, the line of work that his family partook in was one of a depressing nature. He was constantly around the dead and people mourning over the love one’s that they had just lost. The book also describes the viewing room of the funeral home as a room that was hung with dark velvet drapery. In the book she states, “My father had been given a free hand with the interior decoration of the viewing area.” To me it sounds like he wanted to design the room to be as depressing as possible.

The old “gothic” house that he and his wife had chose to buy resembled the way that he looked at his life. Hearing the word old and gothic makes me think of dark and gloomy. He wanted to live in a house that was sad and depressed. I believe that the house is a symbol of him and his life. When he purchases the house it is old and mysterious. A house that needs repaired in more ways then one. He sets out to work on this house and fix every little thing that he can. I think this resembles his life. He is repairing the life that he chose for himself instead of the life that he so desperately wants to live. I wonder do others see his house as a symbol of his life that he is trying to repair?

Why Bechdel’s Organization is Important

In chapter one, Bechdel barely mentions a significant about her father.  She states “but would an ideal husband and father have sex with teenage boys?” (17).  It is written, and then she moves on, as though this statement is not very important.  When I sat there reading, I thought to myself “that’s it?  No explanation at all?”

This same reaction happened again on page 46.  She nonchalantly says that she has a girlfriend. This time, it is less of an exposure and more of a fact that should not be thought over. It is subtly put “as I told my girlfriend what had happened, I cried quite genuinely for about two minutes.”  Granted, this graphic novel was only published several years ago–in which case there is not a necessity to explain one’s sexuality. Unless, of course, one is writing a memoir.

So there are these 2 different sentences lying within her book, where she gives us important details to her life, and, yet, she tells us them like they are nothing.  Of course, once we get to chapter 3,  she begins to go over these more thoroughly.  But why is such an explanation delayed?  Why did she not start with chapter 3?  Or why did she not choose to write and illustrate her memoir in chronological order?

Then there is the end of chapter 3, in which she says “…that would only confirm that his death was not my fault. That, in fact, it had nothing to do with me at all. And I’m reluctant to let go of that last, tenuous bond” (86).  And this is what exposed it to me.

Perhaps the novel is not pursuing to tell us about the true connection between her, her father, and his death.  Maybe it is not about the series of events that led to his death.  Because no matter how connected they may seem, they are immovable from time.  Her father was have sex with adolescent boys long before she came out of the closet. As she read Elsa’s anecdote on page 74, she had also been a lesbian, and it will never change.  Every piece was already there, regardless of whether or not Bechdel chose to come out to her parents.

Her parents’ marriage was unhappy. Her father was unhappy.  She was not the catalyst to her father’s decisions.  And that explains the organization.  She did not need to give an immediate explanation, because, in the end, it will not be important.  Perhaps I am being overly presumptuous for someone who has yet to finish reading.  Regardless to whether or not these were her true intentions, her organization had to be intentional, because there is no way I was the only one re-reading those two sentences.  The revealing of these details were sore thumbs, and only further reading will bring the swelling down.

Bruce Bechdel, lost in his books?

    One chord in Fun Home I find especially heartbreaking, running throughout Alison Bechdel’s relationship with her father, is the detachment that leaves the man more a fictional character to his daughter than the flesh and blood presence he was. By fictional character, I mean that his emotional distance and sudden departure color Alison’s memories of him and that detachment manifests itself in the way Alison recalls him and in the order she presents the narrative. As she says on page 67, “My parents are most real to me in fictional terms.”
    I find it telling that she describes her parents in terms of ill-fated fictional characters of which they are reminiscent. She stresses the literary atmosphere of her childhood, painting her father as a sort of Victorian man of letters living a century and a half too late, but the characters she chooses to relate her parents to are examples of thwarted passions and a sort of settling for the trivialities of daily life. There are the F. Scott Fitzgerald-esque letters her father writes while he’s courting her mother — a tragic precedence of a yearning for a more vivid life, since Fitzgerald burned out so quickly. Her mother is the lead in Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady, a character yearning for the excitement of an artistic life in Europe, yet winds up trapped in stagnant domesticity. Yet not everything is explained in a literary metaphor: the violent arguments between the elder Bechdels isn’t related to any particular work, but instead shown off panel through speech bubbles while the children listen, frightened. The literary allusions and glimpses of a family cracking apart illustrates Alison’s grim prognosis after her father’s funeral: “Dad’s death was not a new catastrophe but an old one that had been unfolding very slowly for a long time.”
    In light of this long spiral downwards, I don’t believe Alison’s coming out is what caused her father to throw himself in front of the truck with the incongruous smiling Sunbeam girl on the side (an example of her often wry eye for grimly humorous detail). Rather, I’m inclined to believe that if it’s any one cause, it’s the divorce: that the shock of having his life in stasis, surrounded by his Victorian house and Victorian airs, jarred by his wife finally having had enough, is what causes everything to fall apart for him. If Helen Bechdel had stayed, and Bruce managed to keep his same-sex affairs secret, I think the situation would have stayed tense yet stable. In that light, I think he viewed his daughter’s lesbianism as either a phase or a wry coincidence to his own sexuality; while her mother is shocked and disapproving, Bruce Bechdel “seemed strangely pleased” and told her “Everyone should experiment. It’s healthy” (page 77) — an ironic reaction given that his own experiment is what is about to drive his wife out the door.
    This is quickly becoming perhaps my favorite work of this semester, and a key factor in my liking of the book, despite the grim events, is the complex characterization. I’m still not sure whether to feel much sympathy for Bruce. Is he a tragic figure, stuck in a stifling marriage and unrewarding, limited life in a place he hoped to escape; or is he a more reckless character, taking out his frustrations on his family physically and indulging his passions behind his wife’s back? How sympathetic is the prodigal father?

    Also, the green coloring throughout the book brought to mind an unsettling association. With my grandfather in the hospital for heart surgery, the past week I have seen an army of green scrubs, a more vivid version of the same pale green mix floating uneasily with a calming blue that colors the novel. Indeed, I am writing this in a hospital waiting room, breathing in the faint odors of disinfectant and distant disease, the same odors that Bruce Bechdel as an embalmer would be so familiar with. That surgical association is reinforced by the elder Bechdel’s funeral home management, especially the grisly, coolly anatomical panels where Alison gives him scissors while he dissects a man. In my mind, that pale green brings to mind the surgical gowns and their association of illness and examination; so by extension the surgical connotations of the coloring emphasizes that something is deeply at fault in this family, and that it will take deep examination and painful treatment in order to find, and hopefully remedy, what has ailed this family, coloring our narrator’s background.

Why a Graphic Novel?

As this is the first graphic novel I have read, I would like to make that the focus of my post.  In the first three chapters, Bechdel has given the reader quite a bit of material to work with- in terms of plot, themes, and countless allusions.  I could probably write a completely separate blog post for each of those, but I will focus on the graphic novel for now.

Most if not all of the works we have read in this course have included detailed plots, several themes, and at least a few allusions to other works, but Bechdel has chosen to present those same topics in the form of a graphic novel.  Why would she chose to tell her story through a graphic novel?  She clearly is not short of information to give the reader,and she could probably just as vividly fully explain the same ideas through words– so why a graphic novel?  The conclusion I have come to is that Alison Bechdel chose to write a graphic novel because, much like the way she relates to her family through allusions of literature and drama, she can most clearly relate to the reader through words and images.  The matter-of-fact approach Bechdel has to important topics in her life such as death, potential occasional abuse from her father, and her sexuality is reflected in the way she tells these stories to the reader.  She is not trying to hide behind stories, sugarcoat details through euphemisms, or allude to other works to let us fill in the blanks, she is painting the clearest picture possible so that the reader can fully understand her story without secrets or shadows which seemed to dominate so much of her life (father’s homosexuality, distant relationship with parents).

If Bechdel were to tell this story in a more narrative form, I think the reader would lose a lot of the information as we would have a harder time pulling out the exact details amid long descriptive paragraphs.  By using the graphic novel, Bechdel not only tells us the exact dialogue she wants us to see, but she shows us the scene we should be imagining in our heads. I think this comes from a desire to have a straightforward connection with the reader.  Bechdel’s complacency to tragic or shocking life events is almost worrisome to the common person, and she enjoys this as we see during moments when she informs others of her father’s death/suicide.  The way she tells us moments of her shocking life story almost have that same effect.  It is as if she wants to vicariously feel the shock and emotion of the reader the same way she vicariously feels the emotions of the people she converses with in the story.  I sort of compared her to Sula in this same sense that she almost lacks empathy or the ability to understand not only the emotions of others, but also her own emotions which have been hardened by many of these events. The matter-of-fact way she discusses these troubling/life-changing topics has a certain shock value that she can most easily attain through a graphic novel, which leads little to the imagination and ensures we don’t miss the point.

Also, since Bechdel seems to relate to all of the people in her life through literary means by using allusions to other works to show her relationships with her parents, the relationships between her mom and dad, and her relationship with Joan, it seems fitting that she has chosen a form of literature to relate her story to the world.

I think that there will be more to interpret as we continue reading the story, but for now, these are the conclusions I have come to regarding the use of a graphic novel.  Did you come to similar conclusions?  What differences, if any, would occur if this story were told as a regular novel?

Shambleau’s Commentary on Humanity

There are many reasons why it’s hard to accept Shambleau as just pulp science fiction. For one, instead of being some horrible space demon that melts people’s faces the Shambleau give people a sense of “terrible ecstasy.” Another odd thing about the Shambleau is that it takes the form of a woman or a girl, a dangerous seductress.

I think the time period has a lot to do with the image the Shambleau gets — that of the kind of won-ton seductress Sula was characterized as — a curse on society. However, the short story seems aware of this. The sheer number of times the phrase “terrible ecstasy” is used can’t be attributed only to the fact that this story is pulp fiction. Moore is obviously signaling readers to a more complex meaning of her story; although, we don’t become completely aware of this until the last few pages.

After the horrific scene where the Shambleau nearly sucks the life out of N.W. Smith, his friend Yarol goes on a tangent about good and evil. This section seems a little long and awkward, like a lecture just thrown in the middle but it gives the entire story a whole lot of significance. Notice how in this section the blame is transferred from the woman to the man. It becomes Smith’s fault that he gave in to the “nucleus of utter evil” inside of him. Once seen through a third party, this case begins to look vaguely like a rape case. I know the connection between the two is a little weak, but it would explain why Moore seems so intent on discussing the dark side of men’s sexual desires.

Given this, do you think Smith would really be able to resist another Shambleau? Do you think Moore’s stance on sexuality would allow him to resist?

Closer and Todays Technology

Science Fiction in my opinion is way under rated, and Closer is a perfect example of science fiction that is as confusing as it is intriguing. Closer is one of the most interesting in how the story perceives relationships with the added headache of technology. This story, although written in 1992, is still completely relevant today.


We live in the fast-paced world of instant communication, where almost any person in the U.S. can be reached within minutes but what are the downfalls. When people become too close could it actually lead to their demise? According to Closer, yes. This is perfect critique of the modern relationship as texting and social media are now a main part of communication. But is there a point where too much connectivity can be a bad thing? In Closer it talks about how most people accept the idea of changing and “switching” using technology to make memories with the hope of a better life. Today I and most likely others have become so used to technology sometimes we forgot to look into the consequences that come with it. As Closer shows it has the ability to completely ruin a relationship because the characters become so intertwined they can no longer find enjoyment in each other. Could technology ruin relationship even with today’s technological advancements?


Another thing to look at is how the characters have no problem with this idea of changing. We as a society must decide what is ethical; technology is perfect example of people struggling to decide what is right and what is wrong. Texting has created instant messaging that connects the world in 200 characters but as we text more we begin to see some people’s communication and grammar skills greatly decline. People generally like the quick easy communication of texting but seeing kids communication skills tumble is something all of society should be concerned about. Will we be like the people of Closer and turn our backs to this problem because of the convenience of texting or will we look at this as a major problem with our society?


Closer is a great story of how technology can actually ruin relationships and a society but the technology also sounds new and intriguing. Will we decide with the moral minimum and choose the risky yet interesting new technologies or will someone stand up and say when something is wrong in order to protect the greater good of society? 

Science Fiction As Medium for Social Critique, & Cliches

In Moore’s “Shambleau,” one doesn’t require a wide swath of nuanced cultural knowledge in order to detect societal parallels. In other words, despite the sci-fi veneer, clear lines between “real” world elements and their exaggerated counterparts in the science fiction form manifest themselves in Moore’s work. Racism, objectification of women, class differences, justice, falsity, and moral ambiguity are generally themes present within works deemed classic literature, and they are vivid in “Shambleau,” too. So, for me, the question is why utilize the science fiction medium — which can distract from the actual purpose of the content — or what can science fiction accomplish that more realistic, conventional literature cannot, particularly from the perspective of social critique? First, Smith functions as something of an amoral character, which allows him to be an objective lens through which to view this wild-west mirror world of Mars, where lynch mobs impart their own vigilante law, citizens nervously clutch futuristic guns, and dusty bars serve whiskey to rough hewn subhuman outlaws. It’s a technologically advanced caricature of an actual setting, essentially. But Smith is a perfect narrator for offering a wide, panoramic glimpse of the various seedy forms in this social microcosm. Shambleau herself — brown-skinned, consistently referred to by the mob as “it,” blatantly cast as an oppressed “other,” stifled in voice, draining others’ vitality, painfully coy — embodies qualities stereotypically attributed to women, which is curious. When Smith invokes God’s name (a “far more ancient invocation against evil than he realized”, p. 119), it seems to firmly square Moore’s critique as one against something primal and innate as human nature. Perhaps a hint at the layered thematic intent beneath the aforementioned sci-fi veneer? Anyway, in a sense, the mob mentality and group condemnation is then justified: the lynch mob at the book’s inception turns out to be correct in their contempt and disgust. This witch hunt against a strange and culturally marginalized subject is proven effective, which seems problematic. As a result, when it is discovered that Shambleau is not what she seems, Smith’s apparent virtuosity in rescuing her appears foolish and shortsighted, as if Moore is mocking the idea of dignity and selflessness in such a wild, violent survivalist setting where individual wits take precedence. Regardless, I’m especially intrigued by the science fiction elements in this story, as I have little experience with the medium outside of Vonnegut, Childhood’s End, and stuff I read as a kid. I think some of the lurid/erotic or fascinating technological elements in sci-fi (i.e., ray guns, violence, Martian presence, etc.) can really mask the true nature of what is actually occurring in the story. One easily inhabits such a world and becomes attracted to it for the wrong reasons, as the subversive or imaginative aspects of a future world almost become exploitative and the story loses its resonance with humanity. I’m curious as to what the rest of the class thought here, and how science fiction can perhaps alternatively occupy a distant (and safe) perch to critique big picture human themes in a unique, entertaining fashion.

Lastly, I’m confused about the swollen presence of cliches in Moore’s work. First, the wild-west setting is a bit of a caricature, with a desperado narrator, colorful lynch mobs, and rugged taverns where bar fights can erupt at any minute and tired Slade-types guzzle whiskey to numb anxieties. Smith’s narration is very brusque and trite, typical of the genre (“God knows I’m not angel”) and fixing him solidly as the anti-hero with a conscious archetype seemingly monopolized by Ryan Gosling lately. Shambleau is consistently described as cat-like, manipulative, weak, passive, and utterly dependent, the cunning female figure gradually luring an unsuspecting dignity-fueled male with mythical looks and faux-meekness. Are these cliches intentional or just typical of the medium? By casting conventional characterizations, is Moore simply building a relatable (and generic) model for her human critique?


Closer was an odd and confusing story for me, it took me awhile to understand the point. Although they were no longer in their human bodies, they still thought as humans. We as humans have always have had this natural curiosity. I believe this story captures the essence of wanting to understand your significant other. Getting to know this person is way different than anything we experience. Your family is there from day one, you grow up side by side with your siblings and share the same blood. Your significant other is someone you have to form a bond with and continue to grow and learn about each other throughout your lives together. This is what makes that relationship more fascinating than any other.

You grow to understand each other and learn together, and I believe that is what this story is trying to show. It is about a couple going to extreme measures to understand as much as they can about each other. In the end it shows that love is never suppose to be like that, you are never suppose to understand everything about someone. It outlines the importance of a relationship and how it is suppose to grow and form trust between each other and strengthen your commitment as one. Many times you see movies or here a couple say tell me everything about you, you can not do this at one time. This is where understanding each other throughout time is important, you eventually share your memories and the highs and lows of your life. Yet, as you tell your story this person can never experience life as you have. This is what makes a relationship great, and this is what was taken away from Sian and Michael. They were able to experience life as one another and once this was accomplished they never be able experience life together.