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.
The comic implies that surviving the holocaust affects Vladek’s life and wrecks his relationship with his son and his wife. In some parts of the story, Vladek rides a stationary bike while narrating his story (I, 81, panel 7-9). Given the fact that it is a stationary bike, it stays immobile: no matter how hard Vladek pedals, he cannot move forward. The immobility of the bike symbolizes how survivor’s guilt will never let him escape his past. Vladek can never really move past the holocaust: he cannot even fall asleep without shouting from the nightmares (II, 74, panel 4-5). Moreover, throughout the story, the two narrators depict Vladek before, during and after the war. Before the war, Vladek is characterized as a pragmatic and resourceful man. He is resourceful as he is able to continue his black business and make money even under the strengthened control of the Nazi right before the war (I, 77 panel 1-7). However, after surviving the holocaust, Vladek feels an obligation to prove to himself and to others that his survival was not simply by mere luck, but because h...
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...s that surviving a tragedy, such as the holocaust, can cause survivor’s guilt, which influences both the survivor’s life and his/her relationships with others. Every day, Vladek and Anja suffer from the survivor’s guilt and from the memories of the war. Their character, which was affected by the war, exhausts their family and friends and eventually chases them away. Vladek is heavily influenced by the war in numerous ways. Ironically, even Vladek, a holocaust survivor deeply affected by the war and racism, continues to be racist. If a holocaust survivor cannot change his perspective on racism, then what can possibly end racism?
Spiegelman, Art. Maus I: a Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History. New York: Pantheon
Books, 1986. Print.
Spiegelman, Art. Maus II: a Survivor’s Tale : And Here my Troubles Began. New York:
Pantheon Books, 1991. Print.