Fun Home Panel Drawing Reflection (Representation)

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a 2006 graphic memoir by the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, author of the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. It chronicles the author’s childhood and youth in rural Pennsylvania, United States, focusing on her complex relationship with her father.


First Panel

I chose two panels to redraw from the book today. The first panel from the graphic book is on page 15. In the panel, it is Alison and her father who are in the same room together. Alison is playing with a gun while her father is reading a book. There are several reasons as to why I chose to redraw this specific panel. The author reveals several hints in the drawing. For example, there is a distinct difference between father and daughter. Alison seems to be playing in her own world whilst her father sits still and reads a book. The book that he reads is actually a hint, it is a foreshadow to the father’s future and it also gives the readers an insight into his secret. The book “The Nude” by Kenneth Clark is actually about the study of ideal art. It is about the ever-changing fashions in what has constituted the ideal nude as a basis of humanist form. The fact that the father is looking at the book might be a giveaway of his closely held secrets to be revealed in the book later.  


Additionally, the way the father ignores his child in the drawing as she plays shows how he “treated his furniture like children, and his children like furniture” (page 14) as he would ignore Alison unless she caused a ruckus. His character seems to value inanimate objects more than actual people. This would be because of his past. 


The father’s past is highlighted in the scene through the silence and he seems oblivious to the presence of his daughter. Bruce Allen was raised in a funeral home (fun home) and was taught to keep a kind of happy exterior even though the true intentions of the house were different which were to help in the funeral service. Bruce Allen’s family made a living out of death. This is later shown on page 36, “My grandmother lived in the front. The business was in the back.” This behaviour is actually reflected from the beginning of the book as Bruce Allen goes out of his way to make the house seem perfect and give it a flawless appearance. He stops at nothing to make the house seem presentable and almost takes pride in being told that they seem rich. His past forces him to lead two lives as he pretends to be contented and happy with his life through the way he manages his home and takes care of his children. However, he is truly unhappy with his life, shown by his eventual suicide. The presence of the daughter, Alison in normal American clothes which is in stark contrast to everything else in the picture including the father, the couch, the book and the plant indicates how out of place the child feels in that home. 


Second Panel

The second panel that I chose consists of a man (Bruce Allen) leaving the room. In the image, it appears as though he is leaving but besides his presence, there is nothing except a drawer with a lamp and a plant with the curtains drawn. As Bruce Allen was brought up in a funeral home, the room in the panel could be seen like a casket. The room could represent a coffin as the curtain seems to be drawn which would prevent light from entering and there is also nothing animate in the area. It seems like a rectangular, boxed in space very much like a casket. 


The room also represents Bruce Allen’s personality, everything in the room is perfect, just the way he fancies. The way the section of the house is organised shows how he favours keeping his house well kept to almost console and convince himself that he appears to have done absolutely nothing wrong when he has been keeping a dark secret from his family. The curtains symbolize how Bruce Allen is closed off against the world and tries to gain little attention from the outside. He also tries to arrange the area so that his children are unable to play in the environment and are forced to find other kinds of entertainment (thus Alison playing with a gun in the panel on page 15). 


Although the room is empty and dark, it almost helps the readers realize that this room could be seen as the exterior to Bruce Allen’s intentions which are to seem like the perfect father and husband. The room seems to portray his ideal image and the perfect appearance to portray himself, “I can’t believe it. Such a good man” (page 27) which could be shown in the way the plant has been arranged in the centre of the room or how the lamp is also perfectly centred on the cupboard.


Both panels which I have chosen portray the same silence and coldness as both images are still and inanimate (except Alison). They both showcase the father’s internal sadness and his intention of maintaining his seemingly high status.