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Psyche of the Survivors in Art Spiegelman's Maus

Categories Art, History, War, World War 2

Essay, Pages 4 (886 words)



Essay, Pages 4 (886 words)

Maus is a graphic novel, which is created on the basis of conversation between the author, Art Spiegelman and his father, Vladek Spiegelman. Since Art is a Cartoonist, he wanted to express the experience of his parents as the survivors of World War II, in the form of comics. But, when he started doing his project, he understood that, the days of World War II, especially the concentration camps, is something more than what he can imagine. Art himself says this while he was in a conversation with his wife, Francoise:  ‘I feel so inadequate trying to reconstruct a reality that was worse than my dreams ‘,  ‘And trying to do it as a comic strip! I guess I bit off more than I can chew.

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May be I ought to forget the whole thing. ‘ (Maus 176)

Creating an entire comics book, only by hearing the story from a person is the challenging task and it is a fact that the author has exceptionally won this challenge.

Through his artistic expressions, Art Spiegelman takes his readers, directly through the concentration camps to witness the cruelty of the Nazi regime and the helpless situation of the Jewish people. Art fears that, he may not do justice to his work, because it is more personal and the condition of the survivors is worse. But, in this work he has presented every nook and corner in the life of his father during the war as well as about the incidents of the war. At the same time, he has not exaggerated anything, and has presented everything as his father explained him.

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Art has not used any color in this work, and the entire work is black and white in color. The colorless pictures shows the seriousness of the content and the unbearable sufferings of the people, which leads to the significance of the novel. Art in one of his interviews tells,  ‘Suffering makes you hurt ‘ (You tube). Thus, the sufferings mentioned in this novel, makes the story to become the one which is too close to the heart of its readers.

The style of narration has to be given a special notice. The book starts with the conversation of the author with his father, Vladek, which is present, and then moves on into the past to explain the life of his father. When Vladek explains his past, the narration is interrupted by his actions in the present. This gives life to the story, and Art has included the interruptions voluntarily, to make the story lively. While explaining his days in Auschwitz, Vladek suddenly switches on to present and says:  ‘You heard about the gas, but I’m telling not rumors, but only what really I saw. ‘ (Maus 229) Since Art uses the common language to express things, it exposes the happenings of the war bluntly.  ‘Most they took were kids – some only 2 or 3 years. Some kids were screaming and screaming. They couldn’t stop. ‘,  ‘So the German swinged them by the legs against the wall ‘ and they never anymore screamed. ‘ (Maus 110) Here, the words, ‘never anymore screamed’, were expressed bluntly, but it makes the reader to be stunned.

The experiences of Vladek which are recorded in this book are not only his own, but also the experience of all the people who underwent the concentration camps. People may undergo trauma for various reasons, but their psychic suffering is similar in certain ways. Peter Metcalf, in his book, Anthropology, the Basics tells,

 ‘ ‘ every society must have its deviants because the raw material on which different cultures work is everywhere the same. This doctrine is called the Psychic Unity of Humankind. ‘ (Anthropology 170)

Any kind of trauma will leave its imprint on the brain. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) results from exposure to an overwhelmingly stressful event or series of events, such as war, rape or abuse. Following the Vietnam experience in 1980, the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), formally defined PTSD as one of the anxiety disorders. PTSD is linked to a greater activity in the brain areas that process fear and less activation in parts of the brain. Everyone’s reaction to trauma is unique but there are certain common reactions and knowing about it would help a person to recover from it.

 ‘PTSD is a normal response to an abnormal event because the condition is completely understandable and predictable. The symptoms make perfect sense because what happened has overwhelmed normal coping responses ‘. (The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Source Book 3)

The causes of PTSD can be grouped into three categories. They are intentional human causes, unintentional human causes and acts of nature or natural disaster. The symptoms are quite similar in any kind of PTSD, when the stressors are severe enough. For instance, PTSD resulting from rape or violent crime is similar in appearance to the PTSD resulting from combat. The diagnostic criteria for determining if one has PTSD are, exposure to stressor, re-experiencing of event, avoidance, arousal, duration and life disrupted. In this novel, the protagonist Vladek as well as other characters who are the survivors of World War II undergoes PTSD. In PTSD war is a stressor which comes under the category of ‘intentional human cause’.


Cite this essay

Psyche of the Survivors in Art Spiegelman’s Maus. (2019, Dec 11). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/psyche-of-the-survivors-in-art-spiegelmans-maus-essay

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