In the introduction, the narrator thinks about his experience in the holocaust. He begins the story by courtship and his marriage to the first wife, Anja. Chapter one of the book also alludes to the painful experiences that Vladek had while in Poland. Art feels that the treatment his father received was not bearable. He thus needs a special treatment. This brings the theme of guilt clear in this book. Vladek has cemented every though during the holocaust fresh in his mind. This can be evidenced by comparing Vladek’s personality in the pre-holocaust with the late 1970s. For instance, he is strained in his second marriage with Mala, the second wife. The marriage is calm and loveless.
During his narration to Art, Vladek has been prescribed to a thirty pills daily. He has a heart attack and diabetes. He takes seven crucial pills for treating diabetes and heart attack while the rest vitamins. He claims that he has to fight for himself. The fight in holocaust had had a great impact on the actions and behaviors of Vladek (Spiegelman 56).
During the pre-war in Poland Vladek was a subject of racial discrimination. He had Jews friends only and all his acquaintances were from Jews. During the pre war, it was very difficult for Jews to take good positions in the government. For instance, the Jews took the blue collar positions while the Non-Jews were policemen and governesses. It is sad to hear Vladek narrate about when he returned from sanitarium with his wife Anja, his factory had been robbed. Furthermore, the rise of anti-Semitism indicated that the rise of social classes had taken roots. There was common class unrest which was seeking roots among the Jews.
Furthermore, Vladek narrates the worse times they underwent while in Auschwitz and the other concentration camps. Food was luxury. They acquired anything for survival. This made him to miser and economical in handling resources as his mind was preoccupied by food security. He also undergoes a compulsive saving which he attributes that all the money is left for his son. This shows the desire he has to let his son lead t a comfortable life. Furthermore, Vladek and Anja are forced to go hiding after the Nazi begin to exterminate the Jews. He is forced to wear a mask of a pig to save his life. He is also offended by the extreme stereotypes that the Nazi had against the Jews (Spiegelman 78). This shows the role of masks in the story as masks help characters hide their real identity.
In addition, Vladek with his come to terms with the true Jews religion. The religion is not recognized and the prisoners and left to freeze and starve in the camps. He insists that it is through prayer that he survived. He also dreams about his grandfather who assures him of his release. Furthermore, he is forced to pray in Hebrew to appease the casket of his first dead wife. He is stressed thus his religion is evident during this hard times. Vladek also assure his son that ‘Parshas truma’ is very difficult to understand. He is in mixed religion as when his mother dies, he recites by the Tibetan Book instead of the Torah (Spiegelman 126). He transforms in religious faith from one generation to the other. During this time, he loses two close relative, the mother and his wife, but remained stronger.
After several days without income, Vladek begins to sell clothes at the black market to generate income. He shares the money he gets with Anja’s family (Spiegelman 134). His survival tactics depends on luck. He is found carrying a black market sack of sugar. He is forced to lie to the German soldiers. His survival actually depended on the mood of the soldiers. He has a big difference especially his demeanor. He cannot control his anger as compared to the earlier life with his first wife.
There are several survival tactics that Vladek used which is world class. Devising the black market trick was his boost. If fixed in his state, I would have devised the business but be carrying all my transactions at night. I would have followed the common trend of masks usage to mask my identity. Escaping could be one of my strategies as a prisoner. During the heavy work I would have excused myself and devised a way out. I do not conquer with Vladek’s ideas about killing. As an army, you have to choose between life and death. I would therefore have killed more as a revenge mission.