THE ORDINARY DEVOTED MOTHER by Alison Bechdel

 

 

The Ordinary Devoted Mother is an impressing comic drama made by Alison Bechdel. She began the story by her dream about her jumping into a brook. Then, she demonstrates how she intends to write a memoir about her father and the difficulty in telling her mother about it. Her mother thinks that her father was an awful person, and in fact, he committed suicide by throwing himself into a truck. Thus, this chapter talks about how Alison Bechdel struggles to find her true ‘self’. Besides of her parents issue, she is suffering an OCD since she was a little, and she is also a lesbian. Both she and her mother write diary to record everything in their life; her mother used to even wrote down everything that Alison said instead of responding her. Conversely, as she gets older, she often calls her mother just to listen to her speaking and she types mom’s words. Turned out that she not only writes a memoir about her father, but her mother as well. She often visits psychoanalyst to discuss her thoughts. And for the rest of the comic, she demonstrates her difficulty in writing, her favorite figure which were Virginia Woolf and David Winnicott, and her relationship with her mother. She ends the comic with photographs of mother and Bechdel as a baby. Consequently, as she types mother’s memoir, realizes that mother and child are two separate human beings that have a connection to be one (Bartholomae, Petrosky, Waite, 2013). I am deeply impressed by Alison Bechdel: her writing struggle, her fraught journey of self-discovery and her relationship with her mother.

I admire how she could clearly express the same frustration that most people face in writing and show that writing is beneficial. It is clear that Alison Bechdel is a professional author, yet she analogs how she greatly fears of writing that she repeatedly dreamt of being scare to jump into the water. “I have some concern about the dirty water, but this only slightly diminishes a sublime feeling of surrender” (p. 75). And while her first dream is about a dirty water, her second is a well-equipped. In other words, although to start writing is difficult, all we need is to jump and try on it. And when Bechdel, or really any of us as writers have preparations – research, skill, determination – we shall be ready to start writing. Bechdel also pictures how hard she has been practicing to tell her mother about her writing a memoir, that she almost crash into a car. Similarly, as college students, mostly we need to get approval from professor or people we are writing about and we need to cite the resources that we used. Another thing that I like is how Bechdel pictures herself sitting down in front of computer for hours, talking to psychoanalysts to clarify her ideas, and struggling to write the memoir for four years. She says, “… and for every sentence I put down, I delete two. I just feel like I’m in my own fucking way all the time” (p. 91). I think this is very relatable to us as college students. Most of us face difficulty in writing a paper and thought that each of us is the only one who is frustrated.Personally, I feel a similar condition with Bechdel. I have to start writing as soon as possible so that I have time to revise; I always have to see a tutor, or at least a friend, to discuss my writing; and just like Bechdel, I feel like I complicate myself with my own ideas. However, apart from all the difficulties, Bechdel says writing overcomes her problems, “I find this calming. Composing” (p. 85). Indeed, I agree to Bechdel that writing is very beneficial since it makes our thoughts organized.

 

Alison Bechdel speaks about her journey of self-discovery: she writes, she sees psychoanalysts, and she talks to her mother. As the beginning of the comic starts with Alison’s dream, her dream implies how she feels about writing; walking along the brook is her process of finding her true self, and the pool is the writing itself. She adopts writing as part of her life mainly because her mother was a writer, such that both of them used to keep diaries to record their daily activity. Writing has been her life that she would regret to miss a day without writing, “life allowed to waste like a tap left running. Eleven days unrecorded.” She also consider writing as a way to unfold her confusion or trouble, “But the only way to get her out of my head is by writing the book,” (p. 95). Besides of writing, she tried to understand herself by going to therapies and analysts, “I’ve been in therapy for nearly my entire adult life” (p. 90). The comic that mostly contains her inner thoughts instead of dialogues, shows Bechdel’s random thoughts that she long to understand. There is one frame where Bechdel, for some reason, wishes Donald Winnicott to be her mother (p. 93) and she talks about it to Carol, her psychoanalyst. In addition, Bechdel keeps a close contact with her mother to unravel their relationship. She says, “this search for meaningful patterns may very well be crazy, but to be enlisted with her in it thrills me.” (p. 103). Indeed, I think that it is normal for us, as human beings to have random thoughts that jump from one topic to another or thoughts about unreasonable possibilities. I also see that no matter how old we are, self-discovery is a positive thing in order to build ourselves to be a better individual. I agree that we need not feel embarrassed about our mental condition neither about us seeing a psychoanalyst, for the good people would see our struggle instead of judging, mocking, or bringing us down. As Bechdel has her own unique way of self-discovery, her comic inspires me to also deeper figures out my true self in my own way.

 

She brilliantly points out how in ordinary and imperfect ways, a mother would always be devoted to her children. She examines her complicated relationship with her mother through her significant childhood moments, such as the time when she gets to bed, her mother would write down everything she said instead of responding her. She unsatisfied with the way her mom treats her says, “getting her undivided attention was a rare treat” (p. 85). However, apart from their one way conversation, she would still call her mom everyday. She wrote a memoir about her. And she admits that her mother composed a big part of her, “My mother’s editorial voice — precisian, dispassionate, elegant, adverbless — is lodged deep in my temporal lobes.” (p. 95). This, I regard, is similar to our life experience. There are times when we are upset to our mom, thinking that she does not love us the way we want her to. However, mothers would always care for her children, at least, in her own way. There are times for us, daughters and sons, to get tired of communicating with mothers, yet I feel like, at worst, in a certain point of time, we would come back and talk to our mothers. Personally, I was upset because my mother is always busy with her work instead of asking how my day was going, I used to fight with my mother for little things, and I thought that she does not love me. While writing could gives me a clearer view of my relationship with mother, I realize that she loves me so much as well as I love her greatly when she sent me to study abroad. Just like Bechdel, no matter how unsatisfying my conversation is with mother, I would still call her almost everyday. I realize that she embeds me with her positive moral values and she makes me the person I am right now. Of course there are people who opposed my opinion, but I believe that mothers who had carried her children for 9 months in her own body, therefore have an unexplained connection to her baby.

The “Ordinary Devoted Mother” teaches us, readers, very much about life. Most of people on Earth would have ordinary life, not everyone has special events occurring. Bechdel successfully creates a graphic text about her ordinary life with her doing extraordinary little things. Bechdel managed to make us comfortable about our difficulties in writing. Writing, journals, any kind of composing could keep us calm and organized. Most of her frames were told from an self inner thoughts instead of characters’ dialogue. Thus, telling readers that it is normal for us to have some random thoughts, brilliant or stupid and that indeed finding our true self is life’s goal no matter what our age is. She also reflects her complicated relationship with her mother, that I believe, also happens to most of us. Mothers might not care about us the way we wanted to, but mothers would always commit to love her children in her imperfect ways. Alison Bechdel confirms that no matter how she thinks she dislikes her mother, that an ordinary devoted mother would always has her children’s heart.

 

Bartholomae, David, Petrosky, Anthony, and Waite, Stacey (2013). Ways of Reading : An Anthology for Writers. Bedford St Martin’s, 10. 73-108.

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