Throughout, Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home, the sizes of the panels vary along with the text on each page. Though some pages look similar, none are ever exactly the same in terms of formatting. However, there is one exception. On pages 220 and 221 towards the end of the book, Bechdel has a tense, yet enlightening conversation with her father on the way to a movie. On these pages, all of the panels are perfectly square in a neat, three-by-four arrangement with no text outside the panels. This arrangement, which vastly differs from the rest of the novel, distinguishes the conversation and Bechdel’s thoughts during it as tense, yet extremely significant.
This passage is the only time in the book, and in Bechdel’s life, that her father explicitly talks about his sexuality to her. He opens up, even if only a little bit, and relates to his daughter. This relation later leads to them getting along more than they ever had, with people commenting that they were being unusually close. However, their moment of closeness is short lived; it comes to an end when Bechdel tries to relate their experiences in wanting to change as children. In fact, the entire conversation is one sided, with her father ending it as soon as she speaks again.
Despite the faults of the conversation itself, Bechdel’s representation of it captures the mood perfectly. The stagnancy of the panels conveys Bechdel’s fear of the end of the conversation, the panels of nothing define the awkward pauses and wait, and her expressions mirror her growing excitement, followed by her disappointment.