A Fictional Father

It seems that the only way Alison Bechdel can understand her father, along with her father’s relationship to her mother, his love interests and children is by use of allusions to other fictional characters.  Throughout her tragicomic, Bechdel relies heavily on allusions to characters of myths and great works of fiction that seem to embody traits of her father in the only way she can understand.  She even admits that she “employs these allusions…not only as descriptive devices, but because my parents are most real to me in fictional terms” (67).  Her reasoning behind this choice is not one of style, rather one that attempts to bring her closer to her parents through the association of other people and the characters they have created. Bechdel’s father presents himself to his family as a character Alison’s entire life: an english teacher (whose true passions are architecture and gardening) and married to a woman who’s love at first could only be understood through his close reading of Fitzgerald (while secretly homosexual).  Fiction plays a crucial role in the entire family’s sense of identity.  Her mother is often seen acting, rehearsing lines and becoming a character that she is like in some ways but is not, which suggests that she too feels the need to hide behind an artifice in order to interact with those around her, perhaps it offers her some kind of security and comfort while living this unhappy life.  This idea of having to rely on the character development of fictional and mythic personas, deceased authors, and biblical allusions to form an identity of a family member is really quite tragic.  Bechdel obviously realizes this (hence the tragic in tragicomic) but maybe this is a way of coping with this estranged relationship between her and her father, formulating his identity around the characters that he embodies willingly. She goes into such depth with her allusions of her father’s relationality to Fitzgerald, Proust, Daedalus and Jimmy Stewart to name a few, that it seems that she is only enhancing his artifice rather than diminishing it. Although her story of her father in its entirety does break down this facade to show to the reader, and to the author, a father’s true identity, it is an identity that is ultimately left partially decoded. Bechdel seems to still be in a state of questioning regarding her father’s true persona even after his death and his secret life revealed.


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