Art Spiegelman's Maus II is a book that tells more than the story of one family's struggle to live thought the Holocaust. It gives us a look into the psyche of a survivor's child and how the Holocaust affected him and many other generations of people who were never there at all. Maus II gives the reader a peek into the psyche of Art Spiegelman and the affects of having two parents that survived the Holocaust had on him. Spiegelman demonstrates the affects of being a survivor's child in many ways throughout the book. Examining some of these will give us a better understanding of what it was like to be a part of the Holocaust.
The victims of the Holocaust lose sight of who they are during this time and begin to live their life by playing a part they believe they were because of their race. Loman discussed the irony behind the cat-and-mouse metaphor that Spiegelman uses in his graphic novel in his article titled “’Well Intended Liberal Slop’: Allegories of Race in Spiegelman’s Maus”. In his article he states,
Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus unfolds the story about his father Vladek Spiegleman, and his life during the WWII. Since Vladek and Art are both the narrators of the story, the story not only focuses on Vladek's survival, but also the writing process and the organization of the book itself. Through these two narrators, the book explores various themes such as identity, perspective, survival and guilt. More specifically, Maus suggests that surviving an atrocity results in survivor’s guilt, which wrecks one’s everyday life and their relationships with those around them. It accomplishes this through symbolism and through characterization of Vladek and Anja.
By means of comic illustration and parody, Art Spiegelman wrote a graphic novel about the lives of his parents, Vladek and Anja, before and during the Holocaust. Spiegelman’s Maus Volumes I and II delves into the emotional struggle he faced as a result of his father’s failure to recover from the trauma he suffered during the Holocaust. In the novel, Vladek’s inability to cope with the horrors he faced while imprisoned, along with his wife’s tragic death, causes him to become emotionally detached from his son, Art. Consequently, Vladek hinders Art’s emotional growth. However, Art overcomes the emotional trauma his father instilled in him through his writing.
“I'm not talking about YOUR book now, but look at how many books have already been written about the Holocaust. What's the point? People haven't changed... Maybe they need a newer, bigger Holocaust.” These words were spoken by author Art Spielgelman. Many books have been written about the Holocaust; however, only one book comically describes the non-superficial characteristics of it. Art Spiegelman authors a graphic novel titled Maus, a book surrounding the life a Jewish man living in Poland, named Vladek. His son, Art Spielgelman, was primarily focused on writing a book based on his father’s experiences during the Holocaust. While this was his main focus, his book includes unique personal experiences, those of which are not commonly described in other Holocaust books. Art’s book includes the troubles his mother, Anja, and his father, Vladek, conquered during their marriage and with their family; also, how his parents tried to avoid their children being victimized through the troubles. The book includes other main characters, such as: Richieu Spiegelman, Vladek first son; Mala Spiegelman, Vladek second wife; and Françoise, Art’s French wife. Being that this is a graphic novel, it expresses the most significant background of the story. The most significant aspect about the book is how the characters are dehumanized as animals. The Jewish people were portrayed as mice, the Polish as pigs, the Germans (Nazis in particular) as cats, and Americans as dogs. There are many possible reasons why Spiegelman uses animals instead of humans. Spiegelman uses cats, dogs, and mice to express visual interests in relative relationships and common stereotypes among Jews, Germans, and Americans.
What if you were a holocaust survivor and asked to describe your catastrophic experience? What part of the event would you begin with, the struggle, the death of innocent Jews, or the cruel witnessed? When survivors are questioned about their experience they shiver from head to toe, recalling what they have been through. Therefore, they use substitutes such as books and diaries to expose these catastrophic events internationally. Books such as Maus, A survivor’s tale by Art Spiegelman, and Anne Frank by Ann Kramer. Spiegelman presents Maus in a comical format; he integrated the significance of Holocaust while maintaining the comic frame structure format, whereas comic books are theoretically supposed to be entertaining. Also, Maus uses a brilliant technique of integrating real life people as animal figures in the book. Individually, both stories involve conflicts among relationships with parents. Furthermore, Maus jumps back and forth in time. Although, Anne Frank by Ann Kramer, uses a completely different technique. Comparatively, both the books have a lot in common, but each book has their own distinctive alterations.
The Holocaust is one of the most horrific and gruesome events in world history. It took a great toll on millions of lives in one way or another. One person in particular is Vladek Spiegelman, a Holocaust survivor. Maus, by Art Spiegelman, consists of two main narratives. One narrative occurs during World War II in Poland, and the other begins in the late 1970s in New York. In relation to each other these two narratives portray the past and present.Throughout the novel, we often see Art Spiegelman questioning why his father acts the way he does. Although the war is over, the events of the Holocaust continue to influence the life of Vladek. Why do we allow the past to effect the present? Vladek's personality is largely influenced by his Holocaust experience. In Maus I and II, Vladek was stubborn, selfish, and cheap because of his experiences in the Holocaust.
As mentioned before, graphic novels can be great tools for some, if not all, readers. As well the holocausts can be a difficult subject, not always easy to read about. Using graphic novels, which often is associated with children, to represent a traumatic event can be problematic: “The enormity of atrocity is such that the very act of representing it risked trivializing or over-dramatizing it,”(2). In other words, the author has to be very cautions when writing serious graphic novels not to get too creative and dramatize the situation even more than what already was. Spiegelman presents his vision of the legacy of the Holocaust in a new and innovative way—through images and words simultaneously.
The Use of Animals in Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
The Maus series of books tell a very powerful story about one man’s experience in the Holocaust. They do not tell the story in the conventional novel fashion. Instead, the books take on an approach that uses comic windows as a method of conveying the story. One of the most controversial aspects of this method was the use of animals to portray different races of people.
In the years after the Holocaust the survivors from the concentration camps tried to cope with the horrors of the camps and what they went through and their children tried to understand not only what happened to their parents. In the story of Maus, these horrors are written down by the son of a Holocaust survivor, Vladek. Maus is not only a story of the horrors of the concentration camps, but of a son, Artie, working through his issues with his father, Vladek. These issues are shown from beginning to end and in many instances show the complexity of the father-son relationship that was affected from the Holocaust. Maus not only shows these matters of contentions, but that the Holocaust survivors constantly put their children’s experiences to unreasonable standards of the parent’s Holocaust experiences.