Understanding the Holocaust through Art Spiegelman's Maus Essay

Understanding the Holocaust through Art Spiegelman's Maus Essay

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The experience of being in the Holocaust is hard to imagine. The physical pain and fear that a survivor of the Holocaust felt could never fully be understood by anyone other than a fellow survivor. The children of survivors may not feel the physical pain and agony as their parents did, but they do feel the psychological effects. For this reason Artie and his father could never connect. The Holocaust built a wall between them that was hard to climb. Artie makes an attempt to overcome the wall between him and his father by writing the comic Maus about his father’s life in hopes to grow closer to him and understand him better, yet he struggles in looking past his father’s picky habits and hypocritical attitude.

Artie’s father, Valdek, as he knew him growing up was stingy. He was stingy with money, food, matches, and even toothpicks. All the food on his plate had to be eaten, or it would be served to him the next night and the night after that until it was gone. Valdek’s obsessive behavior about not wasting anything aggravated Artie to no end. "He grabs paper towels from restrooms so he won’t have to buy napkins or tissues," vented Artie to his stepmother. Once Artie used an extra match and Valdek yelled at him for his wastefulness. His life could never compare to how hard Valdek’s was, and this bothered Artie. At the very opening of the story, Artie cries because his friends leave him when he falls off his skates and his father tells him that, "If you lock them together in a room with no food for a week then you could see what it is, friends!" All things relate to the Holocaust for Valdek and this makes Artie feel guilty for not having such a hard life and for that feeling of guilt Artie becomes angry and distances himself fr...


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...in his life still plagued him. As a result he wrote Maus. It not only allowed him to enter into his father’s world, but also gave him an objective view of his relationship with his father. He spent many afternoons with his father in his pursuit of understanding. He became aware of the events in his father’s past, but still could not comprehend why his father could not put it behind him. He could not understand why other survivors of the Holocaust could move on, but his father could not.

Artie is overwhelmed by the events of his life. He is dealing with the death of his mother, and a father who can’t let go of the past. He longs to understand the world of his father and talk to him once without arguing, but the walls have been built up too high that even after his father’s death, although more enlightened, he is just as confused as to who his father was.

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