Fun Home Setting: A House and Family Falling Apart

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the Fun Home setting? How does the setting affect the way Alison and her family interact with each other?

Most of the Fun Home setting is in Alison’s hometown of Beech Creek, PA. The family lives in an old Victorian home and owns a funeral home. There’s also a part of Fun Home that takes place in New York City.

Read more about each of the Fun Home settings and what they meant for Alison.

Fun Home Setting

While there’s technically more than one Fun Home setting, Alison does go to New York at one point. However, Alison’s home and her family’s funeral home, and her father’s obsession with fixing their home, is extremely important in the book.

Beech Creek, PA

The main Fun Home setting is the Bechdel’s house in Beech Creek, PA. Alison Bechdel grew up in an old, Victorian home in Beech Creek, Pennsylvania with her two brothers, mother, and father. Her father, a notably distant man, put more energy into working on their home than he did focusing on his family. When they first bought the house, it was falling apart, but he was determined to restore it to its former glory. He had an affinity for restoration, and, often, forced his family to help him with his projects.

The town of Beech Creek had a strange hold over Alison’s father’s family. In fact, in the small town of only 800 residents, there were 26 families that shared the last name of Bechdel. Alison later suggested that her father may have killed himself in part because of his perceived inability to escape the small-minded town.

Similar to the isolation of Beech Creek from other communities, Alison experienced isolation within her own home. Her parents were both artistic. Her father had the house to fix. Her mother played piano and rehearsed for her productions. When she tried to interact with either of them, they would often ignore her to focus on their work. She describes her home as an artist’s colony in which each member of the family became consumed by their passion, but in isolation.

Bechdel Funeral Home

Alison’s great-grandfather founded the Bechdel Funeral Home. Alison’s father took over the family business after his father had a heart attack. Due to the low population, the funeral home did not make enough to pay the bills, so he took on a second position at the local high school teaching English.

Alison and her brothers dubbed the funeral home the “Fun Home” because they usually had more fun in the funeral home than in their actual home. They played with the chair trolleys, the flower stands, and the smelling salts as they invented worlds of their own. Their grandmother lived in the back and the business was in the front. They would often spend the night at the “Fun Home” and have their grandmother tell them stories about their father’s childhood. This is the other important Fun Home setting, and served as a reprieve from her life at home.

New York

While on a trip to NYC in 1976, a 15-year old Alison saw the city in a new light. She was traveling with her father and brothers to take part in the bicentennial celebrations. They stayed with a family friend who lived in Greenwich Village, a well-known LGBT community. During her time there, she participated in activities that introduced her to members of the LGBT community and exposed her to LGBT stories.

Years later, Alison moved to New York. She believes that, had her father not died when he did, there was a good chance he’d have died shortly after with the emergence of the AIDS crisis. This is because the LGBT community in New York was the center of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, and Alison’s father had a tendency to go out at night and sleep with men from that community when he visited the city. 

Thinking about the Fun Home setting is important because the house where Alison grows up is part of how she understands her world, her suffering, and her father’s struggles. When she leaves her home, her eyes are opened.

Fun Home Setting: A House and Family Falling Apart

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Fun Home summary:

  • What it's like to grow up in a funeral home
  • Why Alison Bechdel suspected her dad was a closeted homosexual
  • Why Alison believes that her father's death may have been a suicide

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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