Comparison of Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

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When I think of the word Innovative, I think of words such as ideas, creativity, imaginative, truth and originality. I believe being innovative as a writer is being able to create creative, original, thoughtful, content that readers can relate to or experience as they read the story. A piece of writing that can help a reader make connections to characters or themes in a creative way and also experience emotions fall into innovative writing. Being innovative is trying to add meaning to your writing, and making readers think deeply about the text so that they can understand the central idea. This can be achieved by using literary tropes in our writing such as irony, metaphors, synecdoche, hyperbole, and many more. Persepolis and Fun home are both well written Graphic novels that touch on sensitive real-life topics that many people are able to relate to. However, reading both stories I feel that Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is more innovative than Persepolis, as her use of literary references, literary elements, and narrative structure makes the story more compelling. It also gives us insight into how Alison Benchdels thought process was throughout the story.

Both novels provide us with content that makes readers able to empathize with the author’s experiences. Persepolis takes us through Marjane’s childhood and adult years during the Islamic Revolution. It begins by showing the reader how a ten-year-old girl, Marjane, believes that she will be the last prophet. The author shows herself having conversations with God, where she hopes that soon there will be equality in Iran and violence would stop. As the story continues we are able to see how gradually, Marjane begins to rebel against the rules the Shah had made in the country. When women were told to wear veils, she went out doing the opposite, she was kicked out of her school after a confrontation with one of her teachers and began skipping classes. In the end, her parents think it is a good idea to send her to Austria as Iran is no longer safe. Fun Home, is also about the author Alison Bechdel’s tragic story of coming out as a lesbian at the age of 19, whilst finding out from her mother that her father Bruce had carried many affairs with boys. He was involved in sexual relationships with the gardener, children babysitter and that her mother had always known but had kept quiet. Due to this, she tells Alison that she asked Bruce for a divorce. A few weeks later Bruce ends up committing suicide by standing in front of an oncoming truck. Alison mourns that she was not able to speak to her father about his sexuality and his shame towards it. Furthermore, the story continues showing Alison’s journey as she tries to learn more about her father’s closeted life, and ambitions especially, as they relate to her own.

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Comparing both of these novels. I find the content in Alison Bechdel’s writing a lot more innovative as the story does not only focus on her experiences. We get an insight into her mother’s experience from her marriage life to where she is now. We also find out how her father Bruce, also struggled with his sexuality which leaves Alison wanting to find out more since she is also able to relate. By this, we are able to slightly gain perspective from each character in the book which enables us as readers to understand what they felt. Bechdel’s story really shows us how Alison grows along the way. She struggles with her identity because she feels society puts expectations on us to be a certain way. Her father Bruce always tried to make her more “girlish” and was hard on her to act like one. Further, in the story, we realize that the reason he was so hard on her was that she was his way to express his own femininity since Bruce was also struggling with his identity.

Between Persepolis and Fun Home, I noticed that Persepolis includes a lot more political issues in her memoir since it does take place during the Iranian Revolution. The author’s purpose for writing this novel was to change the view westerners perceived Iran as. She is trying to inform readers that a whole country should not be judged by an action of a few misguided individuals. “The juxtaposition of visual and verbal constructs a nuanced text that obliges readers to rethink previous concepts about Iran, about childhoods, about memory, and strategies of self-representation. It also gives the author fuller control of her subject – herself – as her life writing act involves actual, though stylized, self-portraiture.” (Davis) Satrapi uses juxtaposition when she shows the four women who are against and for the veil protesting about their beliefs. Her visuals show the four women in the veil with their eyes closed. By this, she is trying to convey to the readers that these women believe that wearing the veil is the right thing to do and that it is true. “They believe that what they know is real and true, but in reality, they are ‘blinded’ by tradition and their eyes are physically and metaphorically shut to what is the actual truth.” (Anderson) Overall, Satrapi uses visuals to convey her feelings, and memories to readers, whereas Bechdel uses visual, literary references, and tropes to bring further meaning to her text.

Persepolis is written in the form of a graphic autobiography whereas Fun home is written as a Graphic memoir. A graphic autobiography is when the author shares their experience in a chronological manner. For example; in Persepolis, the author starts from her childhood days, leading the readers into her adolescence, and then adulthood, etc. Whereas, a memoir shares a specific memory, taking us on a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings. This can be seen in Fun Home, as Alison shares her experience of self-identity and loss. The reason I find Bechdel’s form in Fun home to be more innovative is the way she delivers her stories by using language that is well educated. Her love for literature reflects her writing as we see many references of famous literary writers such as Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more. Using Literary references is an excellent way to gain readers’ attention as it can help them understand stories by reading analogies. A reader might come across a familiar literary work that may help them understand and remember the story since they can make connections between the two stories. Whereas, Satrapi focuses on images more than writing. Her use of images is a way for her to tell her story through her pictures, each one being part of her memory. Though this is a unique way to deliver a story, personally I think it makes it slightly less exciting to read since you are not able to comprehend fully what the author is trying to make us experience. In Fun home, when we learn about her mother’s experience, the references of Henry Jame’s Portrait of the Lady helped me bring up similarities between the two. “If the taming of the shrew was a harbinger of my parents later marriage, henry James the portrait of a lady runs more than a little parallel to their early days together.” (Bechdel 70) The author tries to show us the comparison between her mother and Isabella Archer. There are many comparisons to make between the two, however, this allows us as readers to make connections and further remember the story better.

The subject matter in both novels touches on similar themes such as identity, death, family, gender, and more. Bechdel and Satrapi share their stories through visuals and literary tropes that make the readers analyze further the meaning of their texts. Fun Home talks about self-identity and the struggles that Alison went through from society putting out expectations on how an individual should be. Similarily, Persepolis shows how Marjane is struggling for freedom in her own country Iran. The leaders of Iran during the time made many rules that were taking away the freedom of people and causing misconceptions about Iran and religion. Persepolis and Fun Home are innovative in their own way, as the authors are sharing their own stories and problems they went through overtime. However, Bechdel’s narrative structure stands out more since she focuses on one memory, yet covers many themes that are relevant in our society today. Whereas Satrapi takes us on a journey from her childhood days to her adolescence whilst covering relevant themes as well. Bechdel and Satrapi were able to use innovative techniques to make their stories stand out. I believe Satrapi’s story can be understood just by looking at the detailed images, whereas Fun Home had a lot of writing, such as the panels, literary references, and dialogue between characters, which shows that even without the images her story would work well. Overall, both Persepolis and Fun Home were well-written novels that cover themes that are still relevant in our society now. The stories are written in ways people can relate, and connect to. With the use of literary references, tropes and a catching narrative structure, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, in my opinion, was an innovative story compared to Persepolis.

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