Fun Home, page 85, bottom panel
Alison Bechdel illustrates a dynamic scene between her and her father in her childhood with deliberate visual motifs. The panel’s text discusses the parallels between her father and the author F. Scott. Fitzgerald, explaining that “by the coincidence…[they lived] the same number of months, the same number of weeks,” inextricably linking the similarities of their lives. In the panel itself, the ornate and decorative library in the background gives the scene a Gatsby-esque air. Alison’s father is reclined in a statuesque chair, and the ornate and gilded frame of the cockatoo painting contributes to the mood. In the background sits a bottle of sherry: Bechdel has used the same image of a glass carafe throughout the piece to illustrate a multitude of meanings for Alison the narrator. First, her father is seen drinking sherry with Roy, his lover — this deliberately illegal use of alcohol in tandem with a similarly ‘illegal’ action speaks to her fathers’ insecurities with his identity and his desire to use alcohol as a mask for his experiences. Similarly, Bechdel is seen drinking sherry after she hears the news of her father’s homosexuality. Again, the carafe serves as a buffer for Alison as she is faced with unpleasant realizations about a seemingly stagnant past.
Similarly, a telephone is pictured in the foreground of the scene. The telephone serves as a harbinger of bad news throughout the early chapters of Fun Home. Alison is seen at the telephone upon hearing of her father’s death, and later upon finding his sexuality. Most of the negativity is delivered by phone throughout this memoir. The deliberate placement of this dark, stark, contrasted black telephone at the foreground of this innocent scene — Alison is asking her father for money to order books, he is sitting and reading — serves as an ominous foreshadowing of the negativity that soon befalls Alison the narrator.