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Use of Animals in Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale

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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. The use of animals as human races shows the reader the ideas of the Holocaust a lot more forcefully than simply using humans as the characters.

Art Spiegelman decided on a very interesting, and possibly offensive to some, scheme of different animals to use. The first type of animal that appears is the mouse (Maus 1 p. 5). Mice were used to represent the Jewish people during the Holocaust as well as the present day. Polish police were involved in the first arrest of Jewish persons (Maus 1 p. 27). Polish people were represented with pigs. Once the Germans appeared, the scheme of the animals began to make sense (Maus 1 p. 33). Germans were shown by the use of cats. The last animal to appear were the dogs (Maus 2 p. 12). The dogs are Americans, and were always friendly to the Jewish people.

The relationship between these animals portray the ideas of the Holocaust very well. Mice are small and scrawny creatures which are usually hunted by Cats. Cats chase mice and attempt to devour them, much like the Germans hunted down the Jews during the mass genocide. Pigs are very greedy and self centered. During the story, the Polish(Pigs) sold out the Jewish people on many occasions (Maus I p. 143). An example is when Vladek and his family were staying at Kawka’s farm. “They may come search here any minute! You’ve got to leave!” In this situation, Kawka was not telling the truth, but only trying to protect herself. Dogs chase cats, which in the book was symbolic because the Americans sympathized with the Jewish people. These are very rudimentary overviews of the animals, but they will serve for the purposes of this essay.

In the Maus series, the life of Vladek during the Holocaust was detailed. The animals were used to illustrate a point of view.
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