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.

One thought on “Why Bechdel’s Organization is Important

  1. My explanation for the bluntness of these revelations has always been a narrative one–that Bechdel knows she will circle over this material multiple times, so she doesn’t need to explain it thoroughly the first time, and it’s actually better for keeping our attention if she doesn’t. But your explanation is from a character perspective, which I also quite like.

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