Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic | Study Guide

Alison Bechdel

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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic | Summary

See Plot Diagram


Before Alison's Birth

Bruce Bechdel meets his future wife, Helen. After dropping out of his graduate English program, Bruce is drafted into the Army, and Helen follows him to Germany. Together they live in Europe until Bruce's father has a heart attack, forcing the couple to move back to America. Bruce takes over his family's funeral home business, and Alison is born shortly thereafter. Throughout his youth, Bruce is aware of his attraction to men but never considers embracing his queer identity. Instead, he carries on illicit affairs with younger men.

Early Childhood

Alison and her two younger brothers grow up first in an old farmhouse before the family moves into a restored Gothic-revival manor. Bruce manages the funeral home (the "Fun Home") but also teaches high school English to make a living. These jobs are not his passion, however, and he'd rather spend his time restoring the old mansion to its original splendor. As a little girl, Alison has a strained relationship with her distant father. Bruce's relationship with his wife, Helen, is similarly strained, although young Alison has no idea why. Alison detests feminine clothing and would prefer to cultivate a masculine self-image. This trait puts her at odds with Bruce, who wants his daughter to look and behave normally. Alison sees this as hypocritical, as he has "sissy" interests and unmasculine affectations. Alison is also affected by spending her days in a funeral home. This proximity to death "inures," or familiarizes, her to its horror, causing her to have a "cavalier attitude" toward it.


As an adolescent, Alison continues to want a masculine image and wardrobe while Bruce desires to "express something feminine" in her. When Alison experiences puberty she resents the growth of her breasts. When she first menstruates, she keeps it a secret from everyone and doesn't write about it in her diary. When she goes to high school she ends up becoming a student in her father's English class. This period is a time of bonding between the two as Alison comes to enjoy the books her father assigns her to read. This new bond over literature lasts through Alison's first semester in college, before they drift apart again.

Sexual Discovery and College

Alison leaves her hometown to attend college. Over time, Alison begins to realize she is a lesbian. At first, she researches her newfound sexuality from a distance with theoretical works. But after attending a queer student group meeting, Alison comes out as lesbian, first to friends and then to her parents. Her father seems pleased, not shocked. Her mother, however, is displeased and reveals to Alison that Bruce is gay and has been sexually involved with men and boys.

Around the time of her midterms, Alison becomes involved with her first girlfriend, Joan, a poet. Joan not only mentors Alison sexually but also changes her perception of literature by offering radical interpretations of well-known stories. During spring break, Alison makes an effort to connect with her father. The closest they come to doing so is during the drive to the local movie theater where they have a conversation about their respective identities. After a failed attempt to go to a gay bar together after the movie, Bruce and Alison never again discuss their sexuality. The last time Alison sees Bruce alive, she introduces him and Helen to her girlfriend, Joan.

Bruce's Death and Aftermath

When summer arrives, Alison and Joan move in together. Shortly thereafter, Alison learns from Helen that her parents are getting a divorce. Two weeks later, Alison is at the library when she receives a call from home. Helen informs Alison that Bruce was struck by a truck on the highway and killed. The death is considered an accident and the truck driver claims Bruce stepped back onto the road "as if he saw a snake." Alison, however, comes to believe it was a suicide, even wondering if it was caused by her coming out. Alison returns home from college to attend the funeral, bringing Joan along with her. Shortly after, she uncovers an old box of family photos. Along with photos of ordinary memories, she also discovers a nude photo of Roy, her former babysitter, and a portrait of a young Bruce wearing women's clothing.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Bruce and Helen meet and begin courting.

Rising Action

2 Alison is born.

3 Alison grows up wanting to wear boy's clothes.

4 Alison goes to college and realizes she's a lesbian.

5 Alison comes out to her parents.

6 Helen tells Alison that Bruce is gay.


7 Alison and Bruce have a heart-to-heart during a car ride.

Falling Action

8 Helen decides to divorce Bruce.


9 Bruce is hit by a truck and dies.

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