I have been asked to choose a comic of my preference and explain why I like it and convince a person to hold my opinion, this was an easy choice.
Maus is a fantastic representation of an aural history; many people don’t appreciate or realize what useful information lies within the heads of the old people we know. Thankfully Art Siegleman did and wrote the master peace that is Maus which later proved to be a huge success; it was a best seller in New York and won the Pulitzer Prize.
Maus even though starting out a fictitious peace of work was a great portrayal of the anguish suffered by the Jews in the Holocaust, Spiegelman was not happy that his work was under the fictitious category and rightly so, wanted it changed to fact, this I totally agree with. Many people could not even come to imagine the ordeals and hardships that the Jewish people had to suffer during the Holocaust.
Throughout our lives we have read, listened and watched films, that have portrayed an image of the Holocaust in our minds, such fantastic films as “Shlinders List” which have given us a good portrayal of what actually happened, but these secondary presentations do not even come close to experiencing the Holocaust first hand as did Vladek, Art Spiegelman portrays the Holocaust in a very different and original manner. Spielgelman’s alternative comic Maus: My Father Bleeds History uses animals to tell, in comic book style, not just the story of how Spiegelman’s father survived the Holocaust, but also the story of Art Spiegelman trying to understand both his mother’s suicide and his dodgy relationship with his father.
While many critics have objected to Maus’ and it’s representation of the Holocaust, it’s style and structure in comic book form, uses animal characters, and its split time frames to serve not merely as a narrative of the Holocaust, but also as a story of human suffering and struggle, not just during the horrible experience like the concentration camps, but also afterwards; not just one generation, but also of succeeding ones. A writer called Primo Levi who suffered the atrocities of a concentration camp stated “The only way to properly represent the Holocaust is through silence, because words would only do injustice to the experience.” If this is the case a comic book would be a near perfect representation as it has a lack of words and its dominant use of pictures. Nazism was everywhere and it surrounded the Jews. Primo Levi’s statement supports Maus’ comic book form because it is able to use “silence” to represent the Holocaust. Spiegelman never experienced the Holocaust first hand so therefore using images; he is able to express how the Holocaust has affected him without misrepresenting it. By utilizing the comic book form, he is able to use the realism and as the old clichï¿½ goes a picture speaks a thousand words.
Animals experiencing human events, cats representing Nazis, mice as the Jews and objects shaped like Swastikas, well at first I was slightly confused but after reading Maus you see there all parts of the novels symbolism. It is important that you understand the symbols to gain full advantage of the novel because symbolism plays a huge part of the novel and aids increasing your knowledge of the Holocaust.
Animal representation was the simplest form of metaphors used in Maus and most helpful in determining from what race they are from. The most significant of these animals were the mice, which represented the Jews, and the cats, which represent Nazis. By doing this Spiegelman turned the Holocaust into a simple game of cat and mouse, the cat being the hunter and the mouse being the hunted.
Cats and mice are natural enemies so therefore the Nazi cats have no faults in the systematic killing of the Jewish mice as cats do with mice.
Different animals represented different countries. The Nazis’ main enemies, the British, who are naval experts, are fish the Americans, are shown as dogs who protect the Jews and holds similarities with the popular cartoon Tom and Jerry, where the dog involved always ended up hurting Tom the cat, the Poles are pigs, and the French, are represented by frogs. There are even crossbreeds! One Jewish fellow married a German woman so their children were shown as tabby-striped mice. Art Spiegelman does an excellent job in integrating wartime roles and cultural differences into ethnic animal symbols. However many critics believed that the depiction of nationalities as animals support ethnic stereotypes. However, Spiegelman uses these animal characters to criticize the German racial policy of each nation and ethnic group acting as its own species based on Nazi ideology.
Masks were often used in Maus which is another good example of symbolism, this is seen on page 64, when a Jew needed to go under cover they disguised them selves as Poles by wearing pig masks, however this ploy didn’t always work because in one seen when Anja was in disguise and her tail was visible, which showed she hadn’t quite perfected the look of a Polish person/pig. By using different animals to represent different cultures and using masks as disguises, helped the reader to know when the Jews were Jews, which is a great example of Siegleman’s creative genius.
There are also many examples of less obvious symbolism which are hidden in the landscapes and shapes of the comic. Swastikas are used in normal ways such as on flags and uniform. However this is not always the case on Page 125, when Vladek and Anja were wondering where to go, the crossroad was shown as a swastika with crematoriums at all ends which tells the reader that the Nazis are everywhere and that every path leads to death for the Jews.
Another very good use of symbolism is the comic inside the comic “Prisoner on the Hell Planet.” Artie is shown wearing prison clothes because he is a prisoner of his guilt caused by his mother’s suicide. The doctor incidentally also looks like Hitler. And shows how Hitler’s doings were somehow linked to Anja’s suicide.
I like the way he skips back to the present towards the end and at the start of chapters, this shows us the long term effects of the Holocaust on Vladek and the relationship between Art and his father and also the relationship with Valdek and his new wife. When you look at the characteristics of Art and his father’s relationship you see the strain on the family which is apparent between Art and Vladek and Vladek and Mala. Both of the relationships strains come from Vladek and his bizarre mannerisms which were almost caused by his experience of the Holocaust.
The purpose of the past-present and present was to explain that it was a story within a story. The main story which was past-present is about the Holocaust and what the Jews went through. This purpose was to explain to the reader what happened, and that one victim’s story, was every victim’s story, and was a very common event shared by millions of people. The secondary story which was the present format was about the relationship between Artie and Vladek. This purpose was to explain how a survivor’s life was bared through. In conclusion Spiegelman’s method helped the reader understand the stages the survivors go through and not just the short term effects they suffered but the long term effects.
Vladek is dedicated to keeping his life organized and clean, this compulsiveness must of made Art’s child hood very tuff and frustrating which could explain his rather lack traits he now possesses.
I know it’s a stereotype that a Jew is known for being Stingy, but there are many examples where Vladek is stingy in this novel, this mostly cause’s tension between Valdek and his new wife, this is where Art decides to be honest about his father and his stinginess, but only because Art knows it’s most probably a result of the Holocaust and another long term effect of the devastating event, which is backed up by happenings throughout novel where the Jews are forced to constantly scavenge and save.
Vladek experienced many tragic events, one of these is witnessing four innocent Jews get hung for dealing goods without any coupons. This happening must stay in your mind; it’s not the sort of thing you forget.
The Holocaust affected Arty’s life because he chose to write the Novel Maus based on his Fathers experience. All of Vladek’s horrific experiences were passed on to Arty; to find out that these events actually happened would affect anyone. In writing Maus I felt it would of brought Arty and his Father closer, which would help explain why his father possesses strange mannerisms, which would also help other people understand their relatives mannerisms who went through the same ordeal.
The Holocaust is one of the most horrific events that has happened in recent history. The events that occurred are unspeakable, unexplainable, and very much unforgettable. Spiegelman was very lucky to get the information from his father, because it’s a difficult thing to talk about, I know my Grandfather didn’t like talking about World War II. The symbolism used in Maus made it an incredible book to read because Art Spiegelman made it interlink in to the rest of the story. The symbolism really helped the reader to understand the emotions felt by all the characters. Maus is a book you will want to read so that you can learn about what really happened during the Holocaust.
Cite this essay
Comics In American Culture. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/comics-american-culture-new-essay