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?