Maus As One Of The Most Prominent Graphic Novels
Maus is the biography of Vladek Spiegelman, who is a Polish surviving Jew from the fields of extermination of the Nazi regime, the story is told through his son Art, a draftsman of comics that wants to leave a memory of the frightening pursuit that a million persons suffered in Europe submitted by Hitler and of the consequences of this suffering in the daily life of the later generations. In MAUS Art becomes a character to ask his father, the Polish “Vladek Spiegelman”, to tell him his life and talk about how he survived Auschwitz in 1945, scenes which are portrayed in the comic.
The story takes place at two different times. First in the present, where we have Artie in the United States, interviewing his father (Vladek) on diverse occasions to reconstruct his experiences. Besides the history of his father, MAUS also shows the tortuous relation that Artie has with his father. And in the comic, we can also see in the past the events that Vladek lived in Poland as flashbacks, but both present and past are joined together without any problem for the reader.
During the narration, the son usually stops the father so that he does not make jumps in the story. The interruptions are frequent, but they are made in such a way that the two times are joined, becoming one and getting the reader not to be bothered by the passage from the present to the past. One important characteristic of MAUS is that it is not only a Holocaust story, the way the social groups are portrayed in the story is one of the aspects that make this story unique. All characters are shown as animals; Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Americans as dogs, Polish as pigs, French as frogs, Swedish as deer, and Gypsies as moths. To show the antithetical character of the relationship between Germans and Jews, Art uses a very simple metaphor: Nazis are cats, Jews are mice. A relation of predation that, in the pages of the book, becomes a perfect simile of the systematic hunting of Jews during the Nazi regime.
Art Spiegelman has chosen to portray the characters as animals and not as humans, but why? he might have done this for several reasons. One of them and the more obvious is for a reader of any age to handle the truth. Because the truth of the war and in this case Vladek’s life story is not a beautiful story, it’s a dreadful and terrifying story. The book opens with a quotation from Adolf Hitler: ‘The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human.’ Hitler didn’t see Jews as ‘normal’ people, he saw them as a race, who he blamed everything on. Jews couldn’t do any good in his eyes. Hitler notified them as not a part of humanity. Maybe following this quote, so not representing Jews as human, is another reason for Spiegelman to use animals in his novel.
Everybody knows that cats and mice have always been enemies. This is natural, the cats always want to kill mice, which is perfectly represented in this book, the German cats want to kill the Jewish mice as well. In the end, the American dogs save the Jewish mice from the German cats, which is the way it goes in real life as well. Portraying the Jewish as mice are based on historical quotes too. Jews were called the ‘vermin of society’ by the Germans during the Nazi regime. In addition, mice are seen as filthy and carrying diseases, that should be rid of because they cause a big problem in the world, which is actually the way the Germans interpret the Jews too.
The story in Maus would not change if Spiegelman had used humans instead of animals, as it is the experience of Vladek Spiegelman. But there would be a big difference in how the reader interprets this book, to begin with, the truth will be much harder when humans are used as main characters. Everything about the war and the Holocaust is a tough topic to write a book about. For readers, it’s hard to read about humans being tortured, gassed, and burnt in big ovens. It would probably be hard to cope with when humans would be used. In fact, if everybody who belonged to a certain social group was the same animal, with the same characteristics, no one could ever stand out. So, what he is trying to say is that no one should be prejudiced if he belonged to a certain social group, and to portray this it is easier to use animals
Secondly, no stereotypes are used now. This is especially for the Jews. Most people depict Jews as men with long beards and curly sideburns. By portraying them as mice, they all look the same. And by using humans instead of animals, children wouldn’t be allowed to read this book. Nowadays this book is read by children because it’s a comic and children don’t see the connection that this could happen with humans as well. To sum up, Art Spiegelman had several reasons for using animals instead of humans. It is a metaphor in which Art tries to express Jewish people’s feelings on the Holocaust, the persecution that they had to live during WW2. This decision had worked out well and it made it more accessible for readers. The use of animals in the book states the actual difference between the social groups much better than if he would actually have used humans for all the different social groups.
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Maus is the biography of Vladek Spiegelman, who is a Polish surviving Jew from the fields of extermination of the Nazi regime, the story is told through his son Art, […]