After I completed my map, I began looking at it for patterns that could help me better understand the book. I found this very useful, because I immediately recognized a pattern. As the time line goes from left to right, or from the beginning of the book to the end, the number of thoughts and ideas of Alison towards her father decrease.
This was a very simple pattern to recognize, because I simply counted the red lines leaving each chapter. However, the question that it sparked is much less simple. “Why does Bechdel choose to arrange the book in this way?” There are a couple of possible explanations for Bechdel arranging the book in such a way. The first, and most basic, explanation is that as Bechdel was starting the book and introducing the character she felt that it was necessary to give the reader as much information as possible, while in the later chapters, once the characters were established, she could focus on a few ideas. The other possible explanation is that writing the book was, for Bechdel, a cathartic exercise. When Bechdel began writing the book she was forced to think back on old memories. Revisiting these memories could have created a flood of emotions for Bechdel. As Bechdel was dealing with these renewed emotions, her writing would have reflected those emotions in the numerous amounts of thoughts and ideas towards her father in the early chapters. After Bechdel had been writing a while, the initial emotional overload would have decreased and thus the amount of thoughts and ideas towards her father decreased.
I tend to like the second idea, because I see this in not only the amount of thoughts and ideas towards her father but also in what those thoughts and ideas are. In the early chapters, the majority of the thoughts and ideas are negative, and the reader can almost sense anger in Bechdel describing them. The later chapters exhibit fewer negative thoughts and ideas. Even when the thoughts and ideas are negative, Bechdel’s tone is much more sympathetic towards her father. I am not sure if Bechdel arranged the book this way intentionally to show the reader a progression of her feelings toward her father or if it happened naturally as her emotions changed while writing the book. Whatever the case, this pattern shapes the book dramatically.
Another pattern that I recognized in viewing my map was Bechdel’s use of the pictures, the text, and the two in combination all to relay the thoughts and ideas to the reader. In some cases, when Bechdel is trying to convey how she is feeling towards her father, she only uses the text. In other cases, she only uses the pictures, and still, in other cases, she uses both. This type of structure creates a dynamic reading experience that prevents the reader from mindlessly reading. Bechdel uses each different method not randomly but methodically. It is evident that great thought went into deciding how emotions should be portrayed in the book. Although I do not feel this is as important of a pattern as the first one I discussed, I think it should be noted. Bechdel’s skillfulness in crafting a graphic novel of this complexity both emotionally and structurally is, for lack of a better term, impressive. Fun Home should be used by authors for many years as a guide for a truly intellectually and emotionally stimulating book.