Agency in Fun Home

Throughout my reading of Fun Home, I was interested in the ways in which the format of a memoir would impact the development of fictional character. Despite the fact that Alison Bechdel is afforded the freedom to develop her character and the character of her father in a way that feels natural to her, I was also struck by the  lack of agency/sense of lack of agency within the graphic memoir. When Alison discovers that her father had been having affairs with other men, for example, she describes the revelation as being “demoted from protagonist…to comic relief” (58). Not only does this news upend the way in which Alison views herself as a character, but it’s also viewed as an “abrupt and wholesale revision” (79) of Bechdel’s history, as if the rug had been pulled out from underneath the character. With that being said, I think the concept of agency is a complicated one, especially because Fun Home is a memoir that is told through flashbacks and memories. Is it fair to say that Bechdel’s character lacks agency even though her counterpart in the real world is responsible for telling her story? And how exactly does a memoir, or the idea that the author is recreating themselves in the fictional form, change the way we look at the characters?

1 Comment

  1. I was also thinking a lot about agency as a simpler way to describe will or willfulness. While I do agree that Alison and her father seem to lack agency as characters I think this is meant to remind us of places where we seem to lack agency in our own lives. Fictional though they may be, Fun Home’s characters are like real people insofar as they are shifted around and reshaped by their own nature, their families, historical events, and the like. Thus, I think Bechdel is trying to be transparent with the reader about how she struggles with the tension between her experience as a story teller (agentiay) and as a character in that story (lacking agency).

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