Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic | Study Guide

Alison Bechdel

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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic | Character Analysis



As a child, Alison Bechdel is inquisitive and tomboyish. At first, she dresses up in male clothes as part of childish games, but as she ages, she takes to wearing male clothes regularly. Alison's relationship with her father, Bruce, is often strained and at times bitter, but she is unable to condemn him completely. After going to college, she comes to identify as a lesbian and comes out to her parents. She then learns that Bruce has always been gay. Despite this commonality, they never quite connect. Although unable to cry over Bruce's death, Alison is deeply affected by her father's passing. Creating the book Fun Home is Alison's way of coming to terms with Bruce's death and its impact on her.


An Army veteran, Bruce Bechdel is the director of the Bechdel Funeral Home and a high school English teacher. He has an incredible talent for finding and restoring junk and turning it into treasure. Throughout Alison's childhood, Bruce carries on secret affairs with men and teenaged boys, a practice that strains his marriage with Helen. He is hit by a truck and dies four months after Alison comes out. Although the death seems to be an accident, Alison believes Bruce committed suicide by intentionally stepping in the truck's path.


While on the surface Helen Bechdel seems to tolerate her husband's eccentricities, she resents him for his constant extramarital affairs. Despite this resentment, she keeps his sexuality a secret and outwardly supports him for years. Although she is a dedicated mother, Helen still aspires to perform and pursues a master's degree during Alison's teenage years. She requests a divorce from Bruce shortly before he dies.

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