Paternal Role

Alison Bechdel, in “Fun Home,” re-evaluates her father’s life after his death. After learning that he was gay, she visits (through words and pictures) moments in her past that were significant or now seem significant. Bechdel sees her father differently after his death; he is less of the “superman” and more of a human being. She looks back into old photographs with this new knowledge of her dad’s true identity and gives us a visual map of his/her relationship. She also notes that even in her family pictures, her mother looked unhappy and is thus able to gain insight into her other family members as people who had issues, hurt each other, and hid their true identity. This reminded me of Baldwin ¬†who also re-evaluated his fathers post-mortem. Baldwin has that heart-breaking moment in his writing where he suddenly sees his father as a human being. Many of the authors we’re read have moments where the idolized paternal role is replaced with an adult-like understanding (or at the least, sympathy for the shortcomings of human nature).

As a child, it’s easy to view parents as only having lives based around their parenting. Part of growing up is when a child finally can see their parent as also a human being. Children come to learn that parents are sometimes wrong, they can make bad decisions, and they sometimes hurt the people they love. It is interesting that all authors would feel this change after their fathers’ deaths. It reminds me of Smith and Watson wrote about how traumatic events can shape how we see the self and our narrating “i”. It can change the way we look back at memory. In some ways that grief does “defy language and understanding” and the text is a way for them to engage in this “obsessive memory.”

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