Classic English Literature
The books entitled “Maus I: A Survivors Tale” and “Mause II: And Here My Troubles Began”, are graphic novels by the cartoon artist named Art Spiegelman. It is about his father’s experiences during the Holocaust as a Polish Jew. Spiegelman had a postmodernist style in his work and presented his subjects in an interesting manner. The Jews were mice and Germans were more dominant animals. The books alternate between past and present timelines. A number of themes can be found within the book. The theme of race and power were the more dominant aspects of the book which spoke out.
“Friends? Your friends? If you lock them together in a room with no food for a week, then you could see what it is, friends!” (Spiegelman vi).
In this quote, Vladek’s is bitterness was evident in his words. Not only was he talking about Spiegleman’s friends, but this could be related to his own experiences as a child. He might have had friends who had turn on him in the past. Questions and the theme of loyalty were present in the book. The quote is more of a back-story, it leads readers to use their own imagination of what might have happened to Vladek during the time. He himself might have been locked up in a room with no food with his friends. However, family is more reiterated as a theme.
This quote reveals the relationship of Art and his father. Vladek was stubborn and had his own ways, Art believes that he could be more forgiving and patient. Families were tested and tried during the times. Art’s relationship with his father was distant. Themes and signs of guilt can be seen. The stains of war are still evident with them. The experiences of the father are evident in how he speaks and acts. The ties between parents and children were very loose and distant. Children could not relate to their parents in terms of culture and even religion. The traumas that the Holocaust left were huge and there were evidences of unresolved hurts. Vladek would directly compare all of Art’s experiences with the Holocaust, unintentionally belittling his child. It is obvious that the Holocaust is always on Vladek’s mind.
“It was many, many such stories – synagogues burned, Jews beaten with no reason, whole towns pushing out all Jews – each story worse than the other,” (Spiegelman 35)
This quote is very powerful because of the truth in it. The novel speaks for all the Jews during the time, not just Spiegelman’s father; this is what the quote is talking about. The power of the Nazis during the time were represented in their character. The Jews are reduced to less than humans; that is why they were represented as mice. They were nothing but vermin to the Germans. Jews were treated inhumanely and Spiegelman says in the novel that many books can be written about all the accounts of Jews during the time, but no one would desire to read such horrific events. Even though there were some Jews that had survived the Holocaust, memories of the past still haunted them. The tragic events are those that they cannot leave behind.
The character of Vladek is one who seems loveless and hurt. Art is guilty about not knowing his father more or treating him better. Family ties and loyalty are present in the novel. They are the more resounding themes seen. Vladek is still hurting from the effects of the Holocaust and there is no telling when he can really express his feelings. The father-son relationship is very fragile, evidences of change cannot really be seen throughout the book. However, there is a struggle as Art tries to be a better and more understanding son.
Spiegelman, Art. Mause I: A survivor’s tale. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991.
Spiegelman, Art. Mause II: And here my troubles began. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992.