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Parents and Dysfunction

Stitches (by David Small) and Fun Home (by Alison Bechdel) are two graphic novels memoirs that describe the authors’ relations with their unusual families. I chose page 219 of Stitches and page 255 of Fun Home to find the similarities, differences, or observations that I found comparing the two. In their comics, both David Smalls and Alison Bechdel describe their upbringing and growing up with a dysfunctional family. I chose the two pages since they do an excellent job of explaining the more significant themes in both comics. The two selected pages differ in how emotions and, relating to McCloud’s framework, choice of image are displayed, with Stitches being more detailed. On page 219 of Stitches, the therapist and Small’s eyes clearly show the devastation David felt, combined with the therapist’s hesitance preparing to share how Small’s mother hates him. While reading Stitches, this was the only page (apart from David complaining to his mother about his grandmother) where I felt the emotions in a way comparable to watching a sorrowful scene of a movie. However, on page 255 of Fun Home, the feelings are more described than drawn, particularly when Bechdel notices the fear in her father’s eyes. Bechdel chose to write this as a text instead of a more detailed image showing her father’s emotions. While this might be subjective, I felt more emotions in Small’s choice of image.

   In addition, as Hillary Chute notes, “Comics is not an illustrative form, in which the words and images match, but rather one … in which the words and the images each move the narrative forward in different ways the reader creates out of the relationship between the two.” [1] In the two chosen pages, the choice of moment was reasonably similar. Both Small and Bechdel connected the dots flawlessly, making it easy for us as readers to create relationships between the words and the drawings. On page 255 of Fun Home, the three panels’ similarity from one scene to another, showing Bechdel and her father (while reading, talking, and in the car), convey the unnoticed connection between them. Noticing the fear in her father’s eyes, reading, and going to the movie made me connect what was not shown much earlier—the unexpected similarity between the two. Similarly, on page 219 of Stitches, moving to Small’s reaction and back to the therapist made me feel the tension Small felt. A strain that struck me not by looking at Small’s eyes but also at his therapist’s. While the scenes are different in terms of the way in which the message is portrayed, both share the flawlessness in moving from one panel to the other.

 When it comes to the choice of image, Stitches, compared to Fun Home, was able to deliver a more emotional effect that was exceptionally well done, especially on page 219. The choice of moment, in addition, was well-made on the two chosen pages and generally throughout the two comic books, simplifying it for the reader to understand the general theme in both. The two writers, David Small and Alison Bechdel, shared a similar upbringing: dysfunctional, immensely mysterious families. From Small not knowing about his mother’s sexuality, Bechdel not knowing about her father’s (and exploring and realizing hers, eventually), to Small realizing how his mother hates him, and Bechdel discovering her father’s unique story, a story somewhat relatable to her. Therefore, it is essential to acknowledge the extraordinary way both writers expressed their past and narratives. Comics, surprisingly, was their method of describing something that might not be describable otherwise.

  [1] Chute, Hillary. Comics for Grown-ups? from Why Comics?: From Underground to Everywhere. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2017.

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