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?

3 thoughts on “Bruce Bechdel and the House He Hides Behind

  1. The fact that there are no smiles on the illustrations is something I found interesting too. I think it is a huge detail that helps describe the relationships between family members. I think its a huge possibility that Bruce doesn’t smile because of unhappiness with his life and sexuality. Someone living a life they aren’t meant to live is definitely going to be unhappy. I thought of the frowns slightly differently though.

    The family has shown nothing but a lack of emotion towards each other. Bruce is constantly ordering around the family with chores and work. The wife is constantly unhappy because of her marriage and the relationship she has. The children don’t get to play often except for around a funeral home and have a non-affectionate relationship with their parents. I think all of these things are why there are no smiles. Smiles to me represent happiness and comfort. This family is not exactly a representation of happy. If they are they do not demonstrate it with emotions. If I were to see the characters smiling in the pictures I think it would lessen the intensity of how distant the family is. Drawing the characters with frowns supports the lack of love they show to each other.

    I think a huge factor in the unhappiness of Bruce is depression itself. Many things appear to be causing his sadness but depression is an illness that makes everything unhappy. For example the one thing that is described as his true passion is perfecting his home. Even with this apparently enjoyable activity he can’t find peace. He never seems to be able to reach a point where he is content. A person suffering from depression can experience all of this sadness and often a result of it is suicide. Bruce does end up taking his life because he can’t find where he belongs.

    As stated before Bruce works hard on his home. I want to mention though that he never stops with the house. He is always changing something or repairing and cleaning a room. There is no point where he is ok with where things are. I think the house represents his emotional problems. The house is his life that he tries desperately to fix but he is unable to reach a point of happiness.

  2. This is an interesting thought, relating the home itself back to Bruce’s depression. I thought about the fact that it’s a funeral home, but I didn’t put much thought into the appearance of it. I thought of the home as a giant project in Bruce’s life, but I hadn’t thought much deeper beyond that. When others mention looking deeper, it becomes very apparent that it could be used as a large metaphor for Bruce’s dissatisfaction for his life. He wants everything in it to be perfect, and he takes so much time meticulously fixing, repairing, replacing, and cleaning it. One could use the excuse that he wants it to be presentable since it is used as a funeral home … However, he seems obsessed with perfecting the entire home, not just the viewing area. Bruce seems quite depressed, but he could probably be considered obsessive-compulsive. It’s as if he is not doing something, no matter how small, in the house, or if someone doesn’t do something right in the house, he gets incredibly unnerved. It’s as if the house really is his life, and if he cannot control every part of it, he becomes unhinged. Perhaps when he felt like he was losing controlling of his life, but not necessarily the home itself, he felt it was all too much, and decided to end his own life. Thought the home was not reflection of his actual life, it was the reflection of what he wanted. And when his wife asked for a divorce, his actual life began unraveling. He had a facade up, and wanted to appear as the best husband and father, and when that image of himself started falling apart, he gave up.

  3. What’s fascinating about the house as a symbol is that it was a real house, and Bechdel is presumably describing it and her father as they were. So yes, it’s a powerful symbol of any number of things about his character, but that symbol is complicated by these characters’ “realness.” Think about the things you own and work on and love–and now imagine people interpreting you through them. By writing her father into this book, Bechdel has turned her childhood home into a symbol.

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