Exercise in Intertextuality

Allison Bechdel’s Fun Home is an exercise in the use of intertextuality. It is barely an exaggeration to say that every other page, if not every other panel, uses an intertextual reference, where intertextuality is defined as “the relationship between texts, especially literary ones” (Google). But these references are not simply made to fill up empty space in her panels, nor are they there just to improve the quality of the narrative. Rather, each intertextual reference exists for a determined purpose. While their specific means are not the same, their general purpose is: intertextual references in Fun Home are there as a means of access to the narrator’s perspective. Whether they relate to the structure of the story, to the influence of the different characters, or to the reader’s understanding of these same characters, all intertextual references help readers understand the memoir from the narrator’s perspective.

One of the most eye-catching parts of this memoir is the circular narrative structure. There are instances where the narrator starts the readers at a point in time, wanders in a not necessarily linear fashion from that moment, and then returns us to that very moment, supposedly having learned something important along the way. The only truly linear part of the narrative would be the physical book, since it starts at a defined first page and ends at a similarly defined last page. While the narrative structure is rather confusing, there is an intertextual reference that can explain the purpose of the structure as well as the peculiar effect the structure. The intertextual reference is to a book titled The Worm Ouroboros by Eric Eddison. The book title alone is a reference to the mythological figure Ouroboros. Ouroboros is known as the tail-eating serpent, and since it eats its own tail, it never ends and cycles endlessly. Playing off this theme, Eddison’s book plays with the theme of repetition, trapping his characters in a repetitive cycle where nothing changes no matter how times the cycle would turn (Wikipedia). The effect of narrative cycles in Fun Home is certainly different. After all, “you could say that [her] father’s end was [her] beginning” (Bechdel 117). A strange claim, since the narrative clearly tells us that she existed before her father’s death. It may be a strange claim, but it carries the weight of an important one, so how are we as readers to make sense of it? This is where The Worm Ouroboros can assist us, as its appearance comes on the prior page in the hands of her father accompanied by the claim that “[snakes] also imply cyclicality, life from death, creation from destruction” (116). This puts Bechdel’s fictional clone in a unique position. Children replace their parents. This is rather logical, but with the reference to The Worm Ouroboros, children no longer replace their parents but continue as their parents. The cyclic narrative then becomes a struggle about her relation to her father, and the relation to herself that stems from this strange conflict.

With The Worm Ouroboros serving as an access point to this frame of mind, we can see similar clues that the narrator left throughout the memoir. One of the more entangled examples of this are the two appearances of snakes within the narrative. The first instance the narrator shares with us is, not surprisingly, the second instance chronologically. “The truck driver described [her] father as jumping backward into the road ‘as if he saw a snake’. And who knows. Perhaps he did” (89). So while the narrator is not sure whether the snake existed or not, she later pretends that her father had indeed seen one, and it was perhaps the size of the second snake that we are told about (116). Looking at the second snake we are shown, it made its appearance on a camping trip, and perhaps could have been passed off as an event that was merely impressionable to a young child if not for the mindset from The Worm Ouroboros and realization that supposedly followed the encounter. “On the drive home, a postlapsarian melancholy crept over me. I had failed some unspoken initiation rite, and life’s possibilities were no longer infinite” (114-115). The source of this melancholy would not be from seeing the snake, but from the fact that she jumped back as well, running to get assistance (114). In true cyclic fashion, Bechdel’s fictional clone jumps back from the snake before her father, but also after her father jumped back from the snake he may have encountered. At the same time, “you could say that [her] father’s end was [her] beginning” is not simply conveniently placed on what appears to be the highway that her father died on (117). So far, the reference to The Worm Ouroboros seems to fit perfectly. Bechdel’s fictional clone is not merely replacing her father but continuing as him.

This holds until we take into consideration the question of sexuality. Bechdel’s fictional clone believed her own confession of her sexuality was an act of “emancipation from [her] parents, but instead [she] was pulled back into their orbit” once she learned that her father was gay (58-59). The idea of continuing on as her father is still there, but the idea of replacing him is instead stronger. Simply by chance, she cannot continue as her father because of her homosexuality. While they are both homosexual, by nature of their different sexes this causes them to want what the other has. “We were inversions of one another. […] But [she] wanted the muscles and tweed like [her] father wanted the velvet and pearls—subjectively, for [herself]. The objects of [their] desire were quite different” (98-99). “When [he] was little, [he] really wanted to be a girl. [He]’d dress up in girls’ clothes. [She] wanted to be a boy! [She] dressed in boys’ clothes” (221)! The younger following in the footsteps of the older is just like the younger continuing on the path of the older, but here the path is more parallel then identical. While it is an oversimplification to see homosexuality as perfectly parallel with homosexuality, there are undeniable similarities and differences. And with the idea of a cycle that yields “life from death, creation from destruction”, the last panel of the memoir plays on the idea that cycles repeat, but things can and do change with each passing turn (116). Here, the jump from the diving board into the pool seems to carry the meaning of jumping into, of accepting, homosexuality. But to make this jump exude the proper significance, the preceding panel shows the front of the truck that, with no need for the imagination, would be the same truck that ran over her father, plastering his own jump into the sea across the grille. “But with the tricky reverse narration that impels our entwined stories, he was there to catch [her] when [she] leapt” (232). It cannot be taken for granted that when Bechdel’s fictional clone makes her jump, the pool has suddenly gained a floating square object- it was not present in earlier pool scenes- that is floating towards her father, very reminiscent of a truck (230-232). With this, we return to her jumping back from the snake just like her father jumped back from the snake. The paths the narrator gives us for Bechdel’s fictional clone and her father are very similar, to the point where one could continue as the other, but different enough that one could replace the other, as all children do to their parents. The reference to The Worm Ouroboros not only allows the narrator to create the importance of the cyclical narrative structure, but also allows the reader to access that importance.

Regardless, the cyclic narrative structure wanders all over the place simply due to its nature. Naturally, Bechdel has included an intertextual reference for readers to use her as well. In this case, the culprit is Homer’s The Odyssey, prominently displayed in the campus bookstore while Bechdel’s fictional clone is discovering her sexuality for our convenience (203). So to what end is The Odyssey chosen, with its famous epic, and meandering, voyage home have to do with the humble concerns of this memoir? In the narrator’s words “[she] embarked on an odyssey which, consisting as it did in a gradual, episodic, and inevitable convergence with [her] abstracted father, was very nearly as epic as the original” (203). Exactly what convergence is made clear shortly thereafter. Bechdel’s fictional clone “was adrift on the high seas, but [her] course was becoming clear. It lay between the Scylla of [her] peers and the swirling, sucking Charybdis of [her] family. Veering toward Scylla seemed much the safer route, and after navigating the passage, I soon washed up, a bit stunned, on a new shore. […] [She] found that [she] was quite to stay [in Polyphemus’ cave] forever” (213-214).  Odysseus himself certainly took his sweet time leaving Circe behind before continuing on his journey home. But Bechdel’s fictional clone would rather stay behind, no completing the voyage. That is if, while understanding the intertextual reference, we stuck solely to the plot of the source, rather than using the plot as a tool of interpretation. If we instead use association of ideas to play with the concept of returning home, the concept can be easily equated with the idea of returning to oneself. While Odysseus needed to return to reclaim who he was, Bechdel’s fictional clone also needs to return to herself, but in a very different sense. The bridge between the two is proposed by her father. Just like Odysseus, her father returned to his Penelope, but hadn’t exactly abandoned Circe either (58). So, Bechdel’s fictional clone converges here by finding the appeal, not back on Ithaca where some external reader would find her home to be, but in Polyphemus’ cave. If Odysseus is the typical traditional, and her father is one step out of the traditional, then she was two steps out. The convergence if about following a similar path to her father, but following what mentioned previously, it was a similar path, not the same path. So if the reference leads us to think about Bechdel’s fictional character’s journey, a journey about her sexuality and its discovery, then it also helps to think that this discovery is a kind of mental homecoming and recognition of the highest order. The reference to The Odyssey not only creates an understanding of the trials of such a journey but allows readers to understand the importance of the homecoming while at the same time reminding us that the homecoming was not the end in Odysseus’ case, nor in the case of Bechdel’s fictional clone.

Every journey has a starting point, and the starting point of this self-discovery also happened, coincidentally, to start with a book. Well, a handful of books. But the seed of the journey was single book. Although it would be more appropriate to call it a compendium. It was the dictionary, of all things. “[Her] realization at nineteen that [she] was a lesbian came about in a manner consistent with [her] bookish upbringing. A revelation not of the flesh, but of the mind. [She]’d been having qualms since [she] was thirteen… when [she] first learned the word (lesbian) due to its alarming prominence in [her] dictionary” (74). At this point the discussion is going to include Alexander Gelley’s Character and Person: On Presentation of Self in the Novel in order to tackle what the reference to the dictionary does. Gelley defines two methods of character presentation that coincide with character and person. The first, character, is synonymous with self-exteriorization. Character, according to Gelley, “implies a thoroughgoing principle of manifestation or exteriorization. What is stipulated as the essence of a figure must be revealed, or at least be capable of revelation, through speech, behavior, or act. The outward is presumed to serve as a reliable and sufficient index for the inward” (Gelley 63-64). Essentially, character or self-exteriorization is a way of understanding fictional characters that depends on the display those fictional characters create, with the assumption that the display is also relevant to who those fictional characters are. Person or definition through self-reflection, on the other hand, is defined as “that which is directed to an essential but veiled core of personality, a singular and unique individual substance. […] This kind of selfhood is private […] and self-determining, and thus shielded from the models imposed upon it by the social context” (73). If we boil this definition down, Gelley is saying that one of the modes of fictional character determination is dependent on the interior of a character. In other words, for a fictional character to be understood through self-reflection, or self-determination, the actions of a character are not based on social constraints but on some internal driving force, i.e. interiority. With this understanding, we can now tackle Bechdel’s fictional clone’s self-realization. Her self-definition is somewhat tricky. When she was thirteen, there was no display of homosexuality. Nor, while she was standing in the library, had there been any display of these traits. This should naturally lead to the conclusion that, upon finding the word ‘lesbian’ in the dictionary, their was some internal resonance with the definition of that word, leading her to define herself as such. But the dictionary is an external source, and to accept the definition found in the dictionary whole-heartedly does make this large, evidently concrete portion of her interiority defined in an external fashion. To the point that the discovery was affirmed while looking at other books, not necessarily the dictionary, is less relevant to the point at hand. While those books were certainly important, they are not the source of the question, merely stimulus for its resolution. But if the dictionary is really an external source, what can ever be said to be truly internal? The dictionary is simply a compendium of language. The purpose of language, after all, is to define things in common terms to promote understanding and communication. The ideas of this paper could not exist without language. They would be both incommunicable and unformed. But even though they depend on existing external definitions for words, it’s still valid to claim that the ideas presented here belong to someone. So, in the end, what does the reference to the dictionary show the readers? Other than the obvious, the reference to the dictionary shows that Bechdel’s fictional clone, and by extension the narrator herself, does not have an untainted interior. By untainted I mean completely devoid of external influence. As was mentioned, a large portion of the identity, which coincidentally is large concern of this memoir, was established by an external source. At the same time, using Gelley’s self-determination, the difference between the choice of internalizing a word like ‘lesbian’ or being pressed with that same word as a label are different. To that end, the narrator uses the intertextual reference to the most basic book of all, the dictionary, to inform the reader that Bechdel’s fictional clone is homosexual because of an internal decision, despite the external source.

At the same time that the intertextual reference to the dictionary demonstrates the internal truth of the fictional clone’s homosexuality, it also props open the door for question the source of her internal decisions. Was such a decision really based off her alone, or was the decision really set in stone beforehand, as the man behind the curtain laid everything out in advance? Timothy Melley’s Empire of Conspiracy addresses this perfectly, using the term agency panic. He defines agency panic as an “intense anxiety about an apparent loss of autonomy or self-control – the conviction that one’s actions are being controlled by someone else, that one has been ‘constructed’ by powerful external agents” (Melley 12). Agency panic, then, is a paranoia about the source of the self, or what one believes to be internal. Without any prodding, it should be obvious that the concerns of the dictionary being an external influence were along these same lines but were a watered-down version. However, full-blown agency panic clearly exists in the memoir, and not surprisingly, the powerful external agent is the fictional clone’s father. The most obvious candidate for this full-blown agency panic would be the fictional clone’s tendency to define herself through literary works, which was clearly passed on to her by her father, who was apparently an avid practitioner himself (28, 63). Coming back to a scene that has already been discussed is the place to pick up on this thread of agency panic. The fictional clone is lying down in her dorm room on the phone with her mother. But the physical position of the things represented in the room, and the revelations caused by this conversation with her mother, are key. To pick apart the importance of this scene, first start with the significance of the letter, which was a direct cause of this conversation. The confession of her sexuality was supposed to be liberating, creating herself for herself as if being born into this world. It is not coincidence that her physical position on her dorm room floor resembles that of a fetus. The second piece of importance is the information her mother presents to her over the phone, namely her father’s homosexuality. She felt that she’d been “upstaged, demoted from protagonist in [her] own drama to comic relief in [her] parents’ tragedy” (Bechdel 58-59). But with these two pieces of information we can drawn out something equally important. Instead of being born, of having a liberating confession, she goes from being stretched out to falling back into the fetal position. The telephone cord that fed her this information and was responsible for returning her back to her fetal state, appears to be the umbilical cord of this born yet unborn woman whose beginning wasn’t until her father’s end (117). This scene, not surprisingly, is one of the scenes that help form the narrative loop. In another instance, the narrator presents another piece of information, as the fictional clone learns that Roy, the family babysitter, was at one-time party to her father’s homosexuality (79).

There is, however, a similar scene, with the fictional clone on the phone, except on the other end was her father. In this scene she is, again, curled in the fetal position. Here, her father is, evidently, droning on and on about the literature in her English class, providing his take on things (201). The interesting part of this scene is that, instead of a large, panic infused reaction, which is what the narrator shows us for the conversation with her mother, here the narrator treats us to the countenance of a resentful student attending an unwanted and tedious lecture. Which is more or less what happens in this scene. But this should draw us to question the limits of agency panic in Fun Home. In this branch case, the topic has nothing to do with the interior of the fictional clone. Knowledge and understanding are being communicated, and however unwilling the fictional clone is absorbing what is being shared, and not coincidentally is in the same position when learning more shocking knowledge. But what sets the limits for agency panic is the content. Even thought knowledge was being absorbed, at the end of the conversation what was shared really didn’t have any personal bearing on the fictional clone’s understanding of herself. So what if some book in class has some point that interests her father? She can listen and comprehend, but there is a clear demarcation that decides when the paranoia of agency panic kicks in, and that is where self-formation is concerned.

Having established the limits of agency panic in Fun Home, it is paramount that at this point as readers we remember that the narrator and illustrator of the memoir- who have previously been stuck under the same title of narrator- are writing this memoir looking back at all of the events that occur. Certainly, this helps explain the third person view point of almost all the panels but will also become relevant in the discussion later on. But this retroactive self-examination is why the knowledge of Roy and her father is so important for the consideration of agency panic. If we revisit one of the scenes where the fictional clone is busy discovering herself in the college bookstore, there is a silhouette peering around the corner. Or perhaps shadow would be more appropriate, to account for the seemingly sinister nature of agency panic. That silhouette, that shadow, is oddly reminiscent of Roy, and seems to be there only at a moment of revelation (203). When compared to the nearly nude photograph of Roy, the silhouette seems to be a perfect match (100-101). Indeed, in the next panel, of the same scene from a different angle, there is no Roy silhouette, even though the angle would encompass the Roy silhouette presented to us earlier (203). Why would the silhouette of her old babysitter be in a scene where she decided on her own sexuality when, chronologically speaking, she had yet to learn of his significance? While it is possible that the silhouette is simply a random choice, with the significance of everything else that has been drawn into the memoir, this just sounds irresponsibly unlikely.

There is one more step regarding agency panic before we can draw a conclusion about the topic and demonstrate its relationship to intertextuality in Fun Home. Towards the end of the memoir, the narrator makes a powerful statement about the story that she herself is telling. “It’s tempting to say that, in fact, this is [her] father’s story” (196). In typical fashion, the narrator takes this statement and diverges down a tangential path, but it is at this statement that agency panic is most prevalent. How can this story, about the fictional clone told in a retrospective fashion by an elder version of the same, be about the father? It can be, if the fictional clone was created by the father. Not in the biological sense, but in the sense that the father is the great external source that shapes the interior which Melley referred to. But her father’s role is crystal clear. He, as per the usual, gave her a book to read, but this instance was unique for what the book signified. Even if we, as readers, have no idea what the book is about, the importance is made very clear. “[She] hadn’t mentioned [her] big lesbian epiphany yet. So Dad’s choice was interesting, to say the least” (205). Based on this one line, the narrator clearly believes that there is some special relevance that guided this recommendation. We later find out that this was likely the case. In a conversation between the two, the fictional clone asks “I wondered if you knew what you were doing when you gave me that Colette book”, to which he halting responds “What? Oh. I didn’t, really. It was just a guess. I guess there was some kind of… identification” (220). So just as the narrator led us to believe at first, we see that this particular book recommendation indeed held a special significance. That significance turned out to be a simple push towards homosexuality. For a man who defines himself by what he reads to suggest such a book, there is a definite impetus towards copying the notions in the book onto oneself. The intertextual use of The Odyssey also plays a role her as the narrator reminds us “that [the] elaborate backstory to The Odyssey, the Trojan War, is often blamed on Helen of Troy. But she couldn’t have run off with Paris if he’d never shown up. Paris plays a similarly inciting role in my odyssey too” (204-205). Finally, we can pull the pieces together to understand that the agency panic caused in the fictional clone can be traced to an intertextual reference, although we might choose to understand by using more than one reference. Surprisingly, however, it is not to the dictionary that we can trace this thread. While the internalization based off the dictionary did bring up some justifiable qualms about what can truly be called interior, there was still a definitive decision on what to include as interior, similar to when she received a call from her father about her English class where she also decided to not include the tidbits he provided for her. Instead, the agency panic justifiably comes from what is equivalent to, in the best case, the straw that broke the camels back. The book recommendation even if it was only a slight impetus, was still an external impetus. Even the narrator’s admission of the role her Paris played addresses the impact of that impetus. One which created an irreconcilable change between the before and after versions of the fictional clone.

Intertextuality also shows us traces of the fictional clone’s father’s influence that don’t raise questions of agency panic. This is thanks to the reference to The Wind in the Willows by E. H. Shepherd. In this book, there is a character called Mr. Toad who can be defined as “charming sociopath” (130). This is the first important tidbit that this intertextual reference gives us. The second is the actions of her father with respect to coloring in the coloring book. Our neighborhood fictional clone was coloring in the canary colored-caravan midnight blue, when her father intervened. “What are you doing? That’s the canary colored-caravan! Here. I’ll do the rest in yellow, your blue will be in the shadow” (130-131). In shadow, perhaps, like the caravan has been parked under a tree. After all, the narrator admits, while planting a tree, that “[her] father was planted deep” (145). While the question of agency panic might allow the reader to infer that he “was planted deep”, it is the use of The Wind in the Willows that allows the reader to see how deep (145). And I mean that quite literally. As Tzvetan Todorov elaborates in Reading as Construction, “two accounts of the same text will never be identical. How do we explain this diversity? By the fact that these accounts describe, not the universe of book itself, but this universe as it is transformed by the psyche of each individual reader” (Todorov 72). He goes on, citing the cause a the difference between the signified and the symbolized. “Signified facts are understood: all we need is knowledge of the language in which the text is written. Symbolized facts are interpreted; and interpretations vary from one subject to another” (73). Todorov holds that this is the reason why different readers hold different interpretations of the same works. But Fun Home is a special case. The reason is simple. There are illustrations that cut out part of the translation work a reader must do. The understanding of her father’s influence that the Colette book gives us is symbolized. As readers, we must do a fair share of leg work to understand how extraordinary that influence is, and to understand the memoir it is leg work which we would normally need to do. But the illustrations provide another avenue. They allow us to access the narrator’s understanding of her father’s influence, which is based on the intertextual reference to The Wind in the Willows. The obvious question here is how? The equally critical, although perhaps slightly less obvious answer, is in the color used to illustrate. There is only a single color, other than black or white, and this never changes. Not even when the narrator tells us that “the infinite gradations of color in a fine sunset- from salmon to canary to midnight blue- left [her father] wordless” (Bechdel 150). Even in this scene, all we see is the overpowering blue-grey. It is also not surprising that the narrator chose canary and midnight blue out of the myriad colors of the sunset to describe to us readers. They were, after all, the pivotal colors that provoked the choice of color in the illustrations. After all, it makes sense that this blue-gray color would be associated with her father. If you combined the midnight blue and yellow, and stuck it in the shade, it is easy to believe that blue-grey would be your result. The ceaseless presence of blue-gray also fits with the understanding that her father is like Mr. Toad. Commandeering the coloring book of your own child for your own purposes is somewhat abnormal, but the reference helps us understand the narrator’s belief of his own influence. After all, the young version of the fictional clone could not possibly think such things. If we, as readers, were simply told about the father’s influence, we could adjust it accordingly. Our understandings would be varied. But here, the influence is literally drawn for us. There is certainly still room for interpretation, but there is much less room because we no longer have the lateral interpretive space that comes with words. Instead, we are locked into the image that the narrator provides us. At the same time, without the reference to The Wind in the Willows, we as readers would, at best, be able to guess the meaning behind the use of single color. Personally, I would believe I would have argued that it was a color of mourning. But the intertextual reference allows us as readers to understand that the narrator uses this color express her father’s influence over her, and how it permeated everything. The only way to ignore this color would be to ignore the panels, and that would place the reader in a completely different “imaginary universe” (Todorov 73). As the pictures remove the lateral interpretation that readers have, the intertextual reference at the same time guides them, allowing them to understand not just the purpose behind the narrative choice, but also the effect such a choice creates.

But at the same time, a reader must understand and remember that this choice was made by future narrator. The scenes at the time weren’t colored in only blue. The trick with this retrospective understanding of the occurrences in the novel also affects how the readers understand the events and characters. There is no subject in this memoir more affected by this than the father. The first thing we are shown as readers is his obsession with the house, “his greatest achievement, arguably, was his monomaniacal restoration of our old house” which we soon learn is a “dazzling [display] of artfulness” but at best “[the ornamentation] obscured function. [The ornamentations] were embellishments in the worst sense. They were lies” (Bechdel 4, 9, 16). In what world does a small little girl equate her father’s admittedly odd obsession with the appearance of their house to an external façade of lies? This is, without a shred of doubt, the voice of the narrator influencing our interpretation retrospectively. This does not mean that the narrator is entirely wrong. After all, we can reapply what was brought up earlier with Gelley about character and self-exteriorization. To review, character, going by Gelley’s definition, “implies a thoroughgoing principle of manifestation or exteriorization. What is stipulated as the essence of a figure must be revealed, or at least be capable of revelation, through speech, behavior, or act. The outward is presumed to serve as a reliable and sufficient index for the inward” (Gelley 63-64). So while the young fictional clone present in the panels and experience the events in ‘real-time’ can’t logically hold these viewpoints, the belief that the ornate house is a lie and a façade does not have to be false. Instead, the opinion is backed up by an intertextual reference to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. “Gatsby’s self-willed metamorphosis from farm boy to prince is in many ways identical to [her] father’s” (Bechdel 63). This appears to be the very concept of self-exteriorization. The external façade of the house, genuine “noblesse oblige” are external acts that are given to us as “a reliable and sufficient index” for her father’s interior (Gelley 64). This method of understanding her father makes sense not just because he is a fictional character, but also because the narrator understood her father “in fictional terms” (Bechdel 67). At the same time that The Great Gatsby is used to cement the idea of the falsity of the façade that her father artfully crafted, references to characters of other works help color-in the difference between the façade and reality. In the library of the house were two statue-lamps that are specifically named, Mephistopheles and Don Quixote (60). While The Great Gatsby is the reference by which the reader and the narrator both understood and view the father, these two statues, by a slight stretch of the imagination, can be understood as the real public and private face. How else can a choice that seems to create a thematic clash be explained in the presence of an individual so obsessed with the perfection of his façade? It makes more sense to understand them as planted by the narrator as a way to alter the readers’ understanding of his character. After all, intertextuality in this memoir is simultaneously used by the characters and by the readers. The first group understands themselves through intertextuality while the second group uses those references to understand the characters at the same time.

But our humble retrospective narrator is rather tricky. She “still found literary criticism to be a suspect activity” (206). A line that comes across as a warning for the reader. Translated, it may sound something like: try not to read too deeply into what I put on the table. The chance for coincidence is high. Indeed, if we as readers weren’t reading close enough, or perhaps believed that the intertextual references littering the book couldn’t all be relevant, we might take this statement as fact. But the illustrator, i.e. the narrator, actually warned us beforehand by placing a copy of The Role of the Reader by Umberto Eco on the shelf of the college bookstore, cleverly tucked away in one of the most influential scenes in the memoir (74). In order to understand this memoir, to come to terms with what it says and how the characters in the memoir say the very same, it is imperative that the reader be able to understand the memoir from the perspective of the narrator. Thankfully, the narrator is not shy about helping the reader. Just the third person panels alone help, as the narrator occupies the external perspective that a reader would similarly have to occupy. Or at least she pretends to. But the real help is the use of intertextual references. These references are woven so tightly into the body of the memoir that it would be impossible to miss the web of meaning they create. It is precisely because this web of meaning exists that a reader has the ability to follow behind the narrator. Even if the threads are not exclusively her work, the web composed of them is, and by following the individual strands, readers gain a sense of the narrator’s perspective, and by extension, in the case of Fun Home, they can gain an understanding of the characters, their impact on each other, and the result their relations had on their own understanding.








Works Cited

Gelley, Alexander. “Character and Person: On presentation of Self in the Novel.” Narrative Crossings Theory and Pragmatics of Prose Fiction (1987): 58-78. <http://www.acros.com/DesktopModules/Acros_Search_Results/Acros_Search_Results.aspx?search_type=CatalogSearch&SearchString=2,3-benzofuran>.

Google. Google. n.d. 13 3 2018. <https://www.google.com/search?q=define+intertextuality&oq=define+intertextuality&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.3128j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8>.

Melley, Timothy. “Empire of Conspiracy.” (n.d.): 7-25.

Todorov, Tzetvan. “Reading as Construction.” The Reader in the Text (n.d.): 67-82.

Wikipedia. The Worm Ouroboros. n.d. 12 3 2018. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Worm_Ouroboros>.