Critical Review of Art Spiegelman's Maus

Art Spiegelman’s Maus is a unique artwork that definitely deserves attention of those who are not indifferent to Holocaust, genocide of Jews during the World War II. Despite the fact that it is defined as a comic book, it focuses of the serious events in the history of Jewish people and its influence on them and their children. Maus combines the features of different genres, including biography, history, and fiction, and this make the readers experience all the events themselves in their minds and hearts. Nowadays, Maus is considered to be one of the most powerful books inspired by Holocaust.

Interestingly, Art Spiegelman portrays the nationalities and races as animals. For instance, Germans are depicted as cats, which follow mice, or Jews. When the book was published in the author’s magazine for the first time, it was presented as a serial graphic novel with bright pictures. Later all the parts were collected and published in two books.

Thus, Maus has two equally important narratives. The first one is presented under the title My Father Bleeds History. It is directed by the main character, author’s father Vladeck Spiegelman. He tells his story about Holocaust and his experiences in it. The story itself is a series of interviews. The readers learn about the life of Vladeck before the World War II, his marriage to Art’s mother, Anja, events he experienced in Auschwitz, and post-war immigration to Sweden. The second part, And Here My Troubles Began, is focused on Art’s relations with father while he interviews the latter about Holocaust. Besides, in Maus readers can found short comics about Anja’s suicide and conflicts with father relating to the publication of Maus.

All the characters in the novel are real, and this fact makes the book powerful and extremely valuable. Analyzing the main characters, readers find out how enormous the effect of the past is. Holocaust influenced greatly the lives and worldviews of survivors as well as their close relatives and friends. Every person mentioned in Maus is affected by the Holocaust. For example, this effect is seen in Art’s feeling of guilt for having easier life, Vladeck’s feeling of guilt for being a survivor, and his attitude towards life.

Thus, the major themes are familiar and survivor’s guilt, interrelation between past and present, and racial and ethnical stereotypes. Familiar guilt is experienced by Art as he feels sorry for being not ideal enough for his father, having better life, and finally publishing of Maus. In addition, he feels guilty for hi mother’s death. Vladeck in his turn feels guilty for being a survivor as being a survivor means to be luckier than those who did not manage to survive. Another major theme is interrelation between past and present. On reading the book, it becomes obvious that past events may affect further life greatly, influence the emotional state of people and their general attitude towards life. The issue of race and class is hidden in the portrayal of different ethnicities as animals. By means of this portrayal author reminds readers about the existing stereotypes and stratification that, in fact, led to Holocaust and all its consequences.

Despite the fact that Maus is defined as comic book, it is much more complex and powerful than other books defined in the same way. This illustrated novel explores the nature of guilt, and the effects that Holocaust have on its survivors. Moreover, it affects even those who were born many years after its end. The essential themes, real characters, a combination of many genres, and complex structure of Maus make this novel a unique artwork, which arouses mixed feelings of regret and deference.

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