Alison uses two Greek myths involving Daedalus as allegories for what life is like growing up with Bruce as a father. The first myth is that of Daedulus and the Minotaur, in which Daedulus was the master inventor who created the labyrinth in order to imprison the monstrous Minotaur. In Fun Home, though, Bruce plays the part of both Daedulus and the Minotaur. As Daedulus, he functions as the architect of the intricate, labyrinthine Gothic Rivival home in which the Bechdels live and which he is always decorating and renovating. But he is also a Daedulus in the sense that he has built up an artificial picture of himself as a perfect family man and father, when in fact he is hiding what he seems to consider a kind of monster within: his homosexuality or bisexuality. And that “hidden monster,” that Minotaur, sometimes erupts out of the carefully crafted labyrinth, whether through his secret affairs or through his erratic but not infrequent rages that terrify his family.
The second myth, that of Daedalus and Icarus, bookends the narrative of Fun Home. Though the myth is a narrative about a parent and child, Bruce again in many ways plays both roles in the tragic narrative. Just as Icarus flies too close to the sun and plummets to his death because of his father’s miscalculation, Bruce has a similarly tragic premature end, though it is likely one he architects himself. At the same time, the final illustration of the book depicts Alison jumping off a diving board into Bruce’s arms, and through that image Alison seems to imply that because Bruce served both roles in the Icarus/Daedalus narrative, Bruce’s physical presence through Alison’s childhood and adolescence, though often hurtful and erratic, might have helped prevent her from flying too close to the sun and plummeting prematurely as he did. Perhaps Alison inherited her father’s compulsive, erratic Daedalus-like drive and ingenuity, but Bruce’s fall may have made her able to put those traits to far less self-destructive purposes than he did (such as the creation of this graphic memoir).
Daedalus, Icarus, and the Minotaur Quotes in Fun Home
What if Icarus hadn’t hurtled into the sea? What if he’d inherited his father’s inventive bent? What might he have wrought? He did hurtle into the sea, of course. But in the tricky reverse narration that impels our entwined stories, he was there to catch me when I leapt.