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.

2 thoughts on “Caught in Fiction

  1. I really like a lot of the points you made here! First off, in terms of Bruce’s sexuality, I don’t really know what to think of this. Yes he is homosexual, but could he alse be considered a pedophile? This is never really brought up by the narrator or anyone else but he is breaking a lot of social norms by having sexual relationships with teenage boys that are also his students. I supposed the age of these “teenage” boys as well as the laws in the state at that time would determine whether or not his actions are legal or perverted. I want to avoid lumping homosexuality and pedophilia because that is an all too common and wildly offensive assumption. Yet, the ages of the boys has me wondering what Bruce’s tastes really are.
    Secondly, I agree with the points you made about Bruce and Allison’s bond. Everyone shows affection differently and I believe that he is trying to show her affection, just struggling with it. Based on his closeted sexuality, I would say that in general he struggles to show affection appropriately. In other words, he has to hide his affection towards the men he is with and this muddles how he shows his affection toward his wife and kids.
    Finally, the idea of their bond being due to their shared sexual orientation brought something to mind. What if it were actually the opposite? Maybe he treats Allison the way he does (distant and lacking affection) because he hoped to connect with a daughter and her presumed femininity but instead his daughter does not meet those norms.

  2. jmmeyr, I’m interested in how two of the things you point to in this book are connected: Bechdel’s way of revealing new information very suddenly and without information, and the book’s pattern of circling over the same material multiple times. First, it’s as though Bechdel knows she can just throw in casual references to important info because she plans to say much more about it later. And second, the small moments of shock or confusion that accompany new information help prevent the book from becoming monotonous as it circles over the same material.

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