Even though the work is a memoir and thus fundamentally nonfictional, there is much to take from Fun Home on the subject of fictional character. So far, the only character that Bechdel has presented explicitly as somewhat fictionalized is the father figure. She verbalizes this in a section wherein she talks herself down from the guilt she feels over his death: “However convincing they might be, you can’t lay hands on a fictional character” (84). On the next page, she continues, “In a way Gatsby’s pristine books and my father’s worn ones signify the same thing – a preference of fiction to reality” (85). With his preoccupation with the house and its pristine interior and appearance, as well as his retreats to the library and the army, Bechdel’s father hides his true self behind ornamentation and Fitzgerald-emulation. Fiction masks his reality of suppressed sexuality and childhood abuse, and it helps him to cope with his failure to sustain the European-artist-intellectual lifestyle he envisioned for himself.
This being said, there is also an implicit element of fictionalization in the manner with which Bechdel presents her own story in Fun Home. The chosen form of graphic novel amplifies this quality; Bechdel’s illustrations present to readers the scenes as she imagines or remembers them, and in doing so strips the license of interpretive visualization from the readers. Theoretically, this technique might relay a more accurate account of individuals or events, but Bechdel admits that she takes liberties in the role of constructor of her own narrative – on page 41, she writes, “I know Mort was a mailman, but I always pictured him as a milkman, all in white – a reverse grim reaper.” More directly, she accentuates her own tendency to fictionalize on page 58, “I’d been upstaged, demoted from protagonist in my own drama to comic relief in my parents’ tragedy,” and again on 67, “I employ these allusions to James and Fitzgerald not only as descriptive devices, but because my parents are most real to me in fictional terms.” Her pronouncements here demonstrate Bechdel’s attuned self-awareness towards her role as constructor of a narrative.