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Ms. Bowles
Posts: 20

Questions to Consider:

1. Is Spiegelman’s use of the comic form effective in conveying the emotional and historical weight of the Holocaust? How does the format of the graphic novel support movement between past and present, and integration of the two, as Vladek tells his story? What is the argument against the suggestion that the medium lacks the seriousness needed to discuss the Holocaust?

Word Count Requirement:

500-750 words (one post) or 300-500 words each (two posts)

Sources to Reference:

Please refer to the ideas, either using a description, quote or paraphrasing, from Maus I or II in addition to one other source in your response.

Maus I (Spiegelman,1986)

Maus II (Spiegelman,1991)

“The Shadow of Past Time”: History and Graphic Representation in Maus (Chute, 2006)

Rubric to Review:

LTQ Rubric

Posts: 11
Spiegelman’s use of the comic form is more effective in conveying the emotional and historical weight of the Holocaust since it allows to see more in depth than just writing. The drawings in the comic book give us the right picture in our minds. It is easier to imagine everything with the pictures of the environment. Instead of leaving everything to the imagination using words, we get something to start off of, an actual picture. In addition, it allows extra symbolism to be made so that a deeper meaning can be seen. Everything from facial expressions, symbols, environments is drawn out. These can enrich the readers understanding since they can read between the lines for deeper meaning. It also takes the best from both worlds, it still includes writing and pictures. Of course, the writing is not in great deal but it does allow further understanding in combination with the drawings. The format of the this graphic novel supports movement between past and present because we can see the difference in appearance to distinguish both them. For example if vladek is telling a story, we can see present vladek saying something in front of a background where the past was. The past would be what present vladek is telling about. Whenever he changes from past to present, it is noticeable. For example, Vladek would be telling a story about the past and it would suddenly cut to present time when he no longer wants to tell his story after an interruption. The argument that the comic book lacks the seriousness needed to be discussed comes from the fictional aspects such as the characters being animals. It is not professionally drawn so it does not get associated with seriousness. However i think the fictional aspects add to the meaning since they can represent something more serious. It is more a matter of how it is told and drawn rather than whether or not it is comic book or not.
Posts: 11

Generational trauma impacts the children of Holocaust survivors, like Spiegelman, since usually the children have not gone through the holocaust. They live a completely different life than their parent or parents did. For this reason, some type of barrier would be created between them that drives a wedge in their relationship. The child does not undestand what their parents gone through and their parents struggles with how to be a good parent since they have their own trauma they deal with. Spiegelman could not understand his father and for many years, it drived a wedge in between them since they did not have the best relationship. This is seen in their constant arguments over foolish things and hurtful words said. The parent sturggles to be a good parent since their trauma enstills bad habits. Vladek had developed stingy and overly organized habits. This is something that damaged the relationship between him and Art growing up. When Art thinks back about their relationship, it is often more negative than positive. In addition, Art does feel as if he is almost less than those who have gone through the holocaust. For example he has compared himself to Richeau in book 2. He shows almost a bit of resentment for his deceased brother since he feels like he relates so much more to their parents despite being deceased and only on a portrait. It is possible to do both. We should not be caught on the past trauma but we should not forget it altogether. If we forget it, the fragments of people disappear with it as well. Anja’s diaries were all that was left of her but they were destroyed. Vladek would have left his story go forgotten as well. Vladek however is caught up on it. It affects him mentally constantly and is all he wants. It is important to have a balance where you do not forget it but you learn to live past the trauma.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

Maus I and II LTQ

Spiegelman’s use of the comic form is effective in conveying the emotional and historical weight of the Holocaust. Artie was able to show Vladek's experiences during the war in a way that is more digestible for the reader. The comic form also allows numerous parts of his story to be more understandable, and immersive for the audience. Spiegelman is able to show the horrors of war like a man being hung in the first book, but in a less heavy manner. So, it is less heavy than real photos of these horrible experiences. These pure text narratives are unable to portray the horrors, and the realistic images may be too sad for someone to look at. So, having them portrayed in a less disturbing manner, them being rats, makes it educational because people won't stray away from sadness. However, the audience still becomes attached to the characters, especially Vladek, as they are able to see his present and past. Artie chose to include so much of Vladek’s early life to portray him as a real and true person. People are able to feel more connected to a character- even if it’s a true story- when they know more about their life. These terrible things happened to real people with lives and families. He is shown to be flawed because, once again, he is real. Mistakes are human nature and that is why nobody can connect to a perfect person. The value of doing this is because these crimes had actually happened to a real person with a good life. It gives a connection to the character when you know their background. Giving more emotion to the comic and conveying the historical weight of the Holocaust on a real person. The format of the graphic novel supports movement between past and present, and integration of the two, as Vladek tells his story. As stated prior, Vladek is shown telling his story to his son Artie The comic allows movement between the two time periods as conversations are followed by panels of the past. Sometimes these panels were overlaid showing the memories coming back to Vladek and the trauma it caused him even. After all this time passed the memories come back vividly conveying the idea that they never left him, and have been haunted since. Along with the shift from past to present there is also an argument that the medium lacks the seriousness needed to discuss the Holocaust. The opposing side to this is that it allows for a creative way to tell these tragic stories in order to make it a more digestible story for the audience. Due to this less people will stray away from these sad parts of history, because of the illustrations. Artie uses animals to once again make it more manageable for the reader. These uses of animals show the predator-prey relationships during the Holocaust, as the Jewish people- rats- had to flee from the Nazis, which were represented as cats. I think it is very effective to get the point across because it shows the power dynamic and how overpowered the Jewish people had been. It is able to show these serious true situations in a less triggering way, so people become more educated on this topic. Along with this the use of the story in comic form gives the story a more personalized form as Artie himself describes in Chute’s article, “The shadow of past time.” He goes on to state, “I’m literally giving a form to my father’s words and narrative…and that form for me has to do with size, panel, rhythms, and visual structures on the page.” Meaning that with this style he can exaggerate the words as his father had said them to him, he can make the panel small when Vladek is hiding, or scared. An example of this is in Maus I on page fifty-seven. During this chapter Vladek is recounting a dream he had of his grandfather. The dream was able to be illustrated to convey how Vladek felt and what he saw. Along with this is in Maus II on page twenty-five. Here, the writing is more expressive and bolded, so through the illustration you can tell the person is yelling. Another important part of the story is how Vladek had to hide his identity as a Jewish man. The graphic novel form allows him to illustrate this in order for the reader to get a greater understanding of what he went through. On page sixty-four Vladek wears a pig mask illustrating him as hiding his true identity as a Jewish man under the veil of a Polish person. This makes it easier to comprehend how he was able to gain help from the Polish train-man, as he is not a threat but the same. All of these points conclude the idea that the comic form is serious and able to tell a story of the Holocaust in a digestible form that gives greater understanding to the reader.

Posts: 10

Spiegelman's "Maus" and the art style it uses

While some may argue that heavy topics should remain only in text form, the book Maus would most likely change most of their minds. Although it does not solely use images, the way that it uses it's distinct art style furthers the emotions that can be expressed while also helping one see the horrors of genocide. This intense range of emotions can be seen throughout the book, from Vladek’s time in a POW camp to the constant grief of being in a concentration camp. One panel that sticks out to me especially is the bottom left of page 62. This is when Vladek steps outside of the tent in the POW tent to use the bathroom and gets shot at. To me, this really paints a picture of how lucky he was, and the art illustrates that beautifully. You can see the path the bullet takes, and if it was about 1 more foot to the right, he would be dead, and there would be no Maus. As Stanislav states, “He knows that the sheer horror of reality surpasses any work of the imagination”. Yet Spiegelman takes a very creative approach that attempts to make one picture these scenarios. The use of a graphic novel creates a situation in which the reader is able to see what the past has done to the present. In the context of Maus, it shows a Jewish man’s fight for survival interplayed with the relative calm of the modern day. Not only is this used very effectively, but also serves as a strong contrast between both scenes and the flashes to modern day add touches of reality and humanism that seems to be devoid in the past. The use of the comic style also lets the reader have a sort of cue when switching between these two timelines, as it could get confusing if it was written in only text. The idea that this topic does not deserve to be in text because it is so heavy is certainly valid, but I propose a couple counterpoints. The first point I have is the fact that no matter what this topic will be hard to read. Even if it is somewhat watered down (which could be argued is not a good thing) by making it text only, it would still talk about the horrible things that have happened to Vladek and his friends. The second point I have has to do with the writer himself. Artie is a comic book artist and has drawn other stuff just as daunting as this. Along with the fact that he is writing a book about his own father (true or not true), we should assume that his father wanted this to happen and did not mind it not being a book. The third point I wish to bring to the table is the point that it is the author’s book. If you don’t like it, don't read it. Obviously many people have enjoyed the book and it is still taught today, so it must be doing something right. I also question the retention rate of a classic text book; Maus definitely makes it more engaging to read, which could lead to more understanding of this topic which a classic text book could not do. Overall, Maus is able to present a heavy and memorable story through what was once thought of as a childish art style.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Reflection on Maus I and II

In his two part series of Maus, Art Spiegelman produces a historically accurate presentation of the Holocaust, though his comic strip style of telling his father’s story may leave some skeptical. Spiegelman’s use of the comic proves itself to be an effective form in conveying the emotional and historical weight of the Holocaust, from the images and raw dialogue that depicts the story of his father, Vladek Spiegelman, a survivor of the Holocaust. Before I began reading the Maus series, I was skeptical that I did not know if the comic strip style would be able to effectively portray the weight of the Holocaust, and the horrific details that Vladek’s story includes. Due to a younger audience reading comic books, they are more likely to learn about the Holocaust in this format, rather than traditional texts, that would be more formal. I felt that the conveying of this through a comic book style could undermine the seriousness of the topic, and allow for people to not fully understand the horrific extent to which the Holocaust affected the world. The argument against the suggestion that the medium lacks the seriousness that is needed to discuss the Holocaust is important to note, because it is so heavy and so deep to comprehend. I feel that the comic book style is not the issue of the unseriousness, but the audience, and their potential to understand the context in an unserious manner, could happen more easily, due to the style that the content is being presented in.

From the beginning of the series, Spiegelman introduces each character and part of the story by humanizing each component, in an attempt to demonstrate the reality of his father’s life and stories. The stories of Vladek’s early life work as a way to show that he too had life before he was in a camp, and he had his whole life taken away from him, instantly. Vladek’s flawed portrayal also shows that he is a human being, due to the fact that he is allowed to make mistakes, just as anyone does. Along with the raw details of Vladek’s life being depicted, the reader feels Artie’s overwhelming emotions with everything that he has gone through, from the death of his mother, to the weight of his father’s life story.

Spiegelman crafts his story very well, demonstrating the complex thought process that he has taken to create this piece of work. Spiegelman uses animals to portray the people as animalistic in their nature, to show how people have two sides to them. Humans have the ability to choose whether they want to take morality and ethics into consideration, or not, whereas animals do not have this ability. By the humans of the Holocaust choosing to ignore their morality, they are presenting as their animalistic side. This effectively shows the ideologies of being an upstander, instead of a bystander, because no one chose to stick with their own morality and ethical ways of thinking. Instead, people chose to obey orders, and follow the group, as animals instinctively do. In the second book of the series, Spiegelman demonstrates his thoughtfulness in the writing of the books, with his wife being portrayed as a mouse, due to her nationality of French. Though the French were very anti Semitic within their cultural practices over the past centuries, Francoise converted to Judaism, so that Vladek will be happy with her marriage to Artie. This makes Artie portray her in a mouse figure, for he does not want to tie the weight of the French population, to his wife. He contemplates crafting Francoise as a rabbit, but concludes that a mouse is well representing of her cultural background, given the context of Vladek’s stories.

Artie Spiegelman tells his father’s story of the Holocaust very well, and can most certainly convey the emotional and historical weight of the events through his comic styled book. From the imagery of Artie being surrounded by corpses of mice, as he is drawing his comic, to the depictions of the camps that Vladek was placed in, Spiegelman leaves the reader with the feeling of unsettlement, proving that he has effectively crafted a comic book that portrays the historical, and emotional, weight, of the Holocaust. In the article Intergenerational transmission of trauma in Spiegelman's Maus, by Stanislav Kolář, the generational trauma of Maus is expanded upon, referencing how Artie recognizes the weight and effects that the Holocaust has had on Vladek, as well as himself. "However, relief is impossible; moreover, his feeling of guilt is reinforced by a family friend blaming Artie for the whole tragedy. At the same time Art is recognizing that his emotional estrangement from his mother’s suffering is a transmitted effect of the original genocidal violence" (Stanislav, 2013).

As juniors in high school, I understand that we can comprehend the emotional and historical weight of the Holocaust through this medium, given the levels of maturity we have, as well as the prior education that we have on the Holocaust. Through his telling of Vladek’s story, Artie shows his appreciation, for his father’s struggles, and has a new understanding of the Holocaust, and all that those affected had to endure. In creating this book, Artie demonstrates the multi layered trauma that survivors face, as well as the generational trauma that he faces. The Maus series is a very well crafted work, and Spiegelman has effectively portrayed the Holocaust’s effects, in the weight in which he wanted to.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

Maus, Accuracy vs Accessibility

Spiegelman’s use of the comic form to depict the events of the holocaust through his father’s eyes may seem grossly inadequate to many. Seeing a bunch of mice chased around by a cat to represent the literal masses of Jewish people rounded up and killed en masse is quite an unfair comparison after all. However, Spiegelman’s aim was to convert his father’s story, in its entirety, into a piece of media that could be consumed by just anyone, while still retaining the gravity and consequences of these events through illustration. It must have been a daunting task, and it is clear that he sometimes feels that he is insufficient when it comes to telling his father’s story. As Stanislav Kolář writes in Intergenerational transmission of trauma in Spiegelman's Maus, “Throughout the whole work, Art’s depression arises from his feelings of incompetence, which only intensifies his feeling of guilt. He is convinced that he is nothing more than an imperfect surrogate of his brother Richieu who was killed during the war” (Stanislav 231). If anything, however, his self-depiction throughout the novel as a bit shaken and being haunted in so many ways by the generational aftermath of the holocaust makes the whole account more genuine and it becomes more obvious that Art is really trying to wholly represent the survivors of the holocaust. In addition, the clarity when traversing from past to present and back using a graphic novel format is another way in which the story can convey its message more effectively. Art will occasionally flash back to the present for a panel or a few in order to accomplish a number of things. Firstly, it can serve to provide relief for the reader following a brutal reveal of an event, such as when Vladek is discussing the use of dead body fat to prolong mass cremations. Secondly, it can again be used to show how the impact of the holocaust has not spontaneously left the lives of survivors or even their descendants. On the bottom of page 79 of Maus II, Spiegelman draws himself, Vladek, and Françoise driving in their car through a wooded area, discussing a group of women who destroyed a crematorium and how they were hanged afterwards. Above them, in some trees, hang four bodies which the reader can assume to not be real, but simply a manifestation of the image of the hanged women, burned into memory. Even still, some would argue that it is both the style of a graphic novel and the cultural connotations implied that make the book questionable. For instance, Stephen Tabachnick argues that “the black and white quality of Maus reminds one of newsprint” and just like when reading the newspaper, if an event seems far away or inconsequential to one’s own life, they may just ignore it. Furthermore, while the cartoonist depiction of Auschwitz, on one hand, helps with portraying the unreality of the whole ordeal, this same unreality may also make some doubtful of Vladek’s story, assuming he either exaggerated his account, or they might not understand how horrible these people were treated in the camps because all they can gather about the events is that some cartoon mouse was suffering.
boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 6

The Effectiveness of the Comic Form

The use of the comic to convey the emotional and historical weight of the Holocaust is quite effective. Although we usually see comics used for childrens’ and teen books, or to tell stories about more light hearted topics, the use for it in regards to the Holocaust does still effectively cover the depth and seriousness of the historical moment. The argument that this medium lacks the seriousness to discuss such a tragic and traumatic historical event, can not exactly be made here. I personally can say, while reading these books, there were many pages that were very intense and difficult to read through; page 25, 72, 114 and 115 of Maus II are some examples of the more emotional pages. On page 25 Spiegelman illustrates Jewish people in a camp being stripped naked and abused by Polish officers; in the last panel on page 72 Spiegelman shares a very vivid depiction of the burnings of the Jews; and on pages 114 and 115 a more thought provoking and emotional page, we see many Maus versions of photos of Art’s family, most of who were lost during and following the Holocaust, this page specifically offers the reader the reality of the life of a survivor, it makes you think about the fact that these people, although they are still living, lost their lives in different way. There are many times between both novels where we see Vladek telling about the different people he knew before the camps, whether it be friends or family or people who he met and formed relationships while in the camps, he then lost most of them from abuse or just flat-out murder in the the camps with him, and/or after the camps from starvation or exhaustion. Losing so many people close to him and the loss of his home as a whole takes away so many vital aspects of what fulfills life; this is one great example of how Spiegelman’s work is credible in tackling the Holocaust. Spiegelman also touches upon the generational effects the Holocaust has on the victims and their family members post war. We get to see moments between Art and his father and how his trauma from his past plays a role in their dynamic now, which I believe is a very interesting detail that we should hear more about when discussing not only this genocide but other historical atrocities in general.

If we compare this comic to an average book about the Holocaust, the average book would most likely lack any kind of illustration or image of situations that are written. Spiegelman’s style choice is helpful for readers to get a better grasp of what conditions looked like and see how fast things changed and how drastically Jewish people’s lives turned around. The drawings are very well done to convey the emotions of the characters as well, small details like under eye bags and shadows around the characters depict the gloominess and overall sadness of the victims. I also think Spiegelman’s choice to depict the Germans as cats and Jewish people as mice, and people of other nationalities as different animals, not only further helps to convey the dynamic between the characters we see, but also is a great use of symbolism as the Jews are the prey and the Germans are the predators. The format of the novel's pages also plays a part in its effectiveness, where the author decides to cut to flashbacks of his father’s stories . Throughout both books Vladek would describe the setting and set the scene and Art does very well of putting it on the page, but he does not only draw out the scenes described to him, he conveys the raw emotions and intense moods of who he is drawing, and it can very clearly be shown even in his animal cartoon comic style.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 9

The Use of the Comic Form in Maus I and II

The unconventional style of a comic book: not just any comic book, but one about the atrocities of the Holocaust, and about the generations that have persevered throughout it. However, there is debate on whether or not such a topic should be discussed within the form of a comic book. Is it ignorant to do so? Can a comic book with animal illustrations properly display the prolonging effects that the Holocaust has had on people?

“Maus” by Art Spiegelman is a comic book about his father, Vladek, and his experience throughout the Holocaust. The characters in the book represent many different animals: mice for Jews, cats for Nazis, dogs for Americans, pigs for the Poles, all these elements contribute to the overall meaning of the text, as well as the effect that it has on the understanding of the reader. The novel is able to properly display events of the Holocaust, as well as the moments that Vladek remembers through the art and through the story telling. Not only are the illustrations an element of symbolism throughout the text, it also highlights the dehumanizing effects of the Holocaust. There is an animal hierarchy within our world, and within the text that we see. The Jews as mice for the Nazis who are cats to feed on, the Americans as friendly dogs. This symbolism is not something that would be possible through a textbook. Through this technique, Spiegelman is able to underscore the absurdity and prejudice of this discrimination, while also allowing the reader to understand the power dynamics in a different light in the narrative.

Additionally, Maus, being a physical comic book with images depicting the atrocities, has a visual storytelling element. Yes, many textbooks and many works regarding the Holocaust display graphic images of the events throughout it, and that is extremely helpful to the reader as well. However, through this being a comic book it allows for a broader audience. This is extremely important, as younger readers who want to understand the impact of the Holocaust are able to do so without the horridity that lies within real life images of death and decay. Moreover, the comic book style makes it more appealing to an audience. Even though it is a cartoon, throughout the novel, you still feel the emotional impact it had on the survivors--no sympathy is lacking, and nothing is underscored, because deep down we still know within us that these are real people going through real things.

The integration of the past and present allows us to see much more; we see not only the perspective of a survivor, but the perspective of the generations after the survivor, who have to live with this generational trauma. This is something that is not seen often: the effect that it has for the generations beyond just those who have survived the Holocaust. Thus, although a comic book may seem like an impractical or even disrespectful way to portray such a horrific event, “Maus” is able to do so while respecting all sides of the genocide. Those who survived, those who didn't, and the generation beyond who have to live with the guilt of never truly understanding what their loved ones have gone through.

Overall, the medium used to discuss the Holocaust does not lack seriousness, rather, it is a unique way to describe the events in a way that is more appropriate for a younger audience, while also displaying the realities of the Holocaust.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 12

This is not the lazy man's book

Some people say that graphic novels are the lazy man's book. It’s the book that people pick up when they don’t want to think or when they don’t want to read a serious piece of literature. Maus is not a lazy man’s book. Maus is a book that holds so much history and can be too heavy for our hearts to bear. Spiegelman’s graphic novel has been dismissed as an unserious way to depict a serious moment in history. However, after reading this novel it is safe to say that it is easy to read, meaning that the language and diction isn’t too difficult for one to read. But it is very far from the truth to say that this book is very easy to understand if you’re not paying attention. There’s a lot of controversy when it comes to Spiegelman’s artistic choices “in the context of postmodernism, or in relation to theories of traumatic memory. But such readings do not pay attention to Maus’s narrative form: the specificities of reading graphically, of taking individual pages as crucial units of comics grammar form” (Chute, 2006). Everything done in this graphic novel carries the historical importance through.

What obviously makes this book so unique and what probably causes such controversy is the animalistic representation for each group. The main two animals are cats and mice which translates the predator-prey relationship between Germans and Jews during this traumatic time. There’s also a representation of pigs as Poles, deers as Swedes, frogs as Frenchmen, butterflies as Gypsies and dogs as Americans. During Hitler’s reign many Jews had to pretend to be Polish in order to survive within society. Because of Spiegelman’s representational choices, it is very easy to understand when this happens. When Vladek was disguised as a Pole, you could clearly see the mask around his face making him look like a pig (Maus I, 64). Because of the dangers their identity posed for them, this use of impersonation was very commonly used. However, Spielgelman’s use of masks is also used to demonstrate the feeling of being lost in one’s identity (Maus II, 43). Artie, one of the main characters and author of the book, goes to therapy as he battles his feelings towards the book and his father. The entire time he’s at therapy he wears a mask of a mouse which may confuse the reader because he really is Jewish, so why the mask? The mask could appear for the purpose of describing the feeling of isolation or misunderstanding he has for his own culture which also contributes to the reader’s emotional understanding.

Spiegelman’s choice of a comic form makes the feelings of each character understandable. To keep Vladek from being drafted, his father would starve him so that he would be physically unfit for war. These words give you an understanding of what happened but the illustrations make it easier to visualize (Maus I, 46). The detrimental physical changes that Vladek had to go through are made so clear through Spiegelman’s artistic lens. The Holocaust was such a graphic and violent time and the author doesn’t feel restrained in showing that. When kids wouldn’t stop crying in concentration camps, the Germans would swing them against the wall in order to make them stop (Maus I, 108). Although this novel doesn’t use color, you don’t need the splashing red ink to show you the blood and violence from that situation. Spiegelman’s articulate and specific artistic choices already demonstrate the horrors. The choice to let visualization lead us through the story is not only used for the horrific times but also for the times of love and loss. Vladek’s great love was Anja and that’s clearly displayed to the reader. As Anja battled with her depression (Maus I, 31), Vladek was always by her side and the author lets his love seem through the pages (Maus I, 35). Even as he calls for Anja’s name years after her suicide, the reader can still see the strength of his feelings (Maus I, 127).

Artie Spiegelman makes sure to include the reader in his process of creating the book. We’re able to see the moments he believes are important and the remarks he has with his father during this experience. In order to make these time jumps he had to be very strategic with how he made the panels. There are many instances where there will be a moment from the past and the present on the same page. It’s easy to differentiate these moments by the lack of borders on those panels (Maus II, 29). Almost every time there’s a collaboration of past and present moments on a page Spiegelman doesn’t put lines around the present moments. It’s almost as if he is trying to tell the reader that Vladek is free in the present. He isn’t confined by certain ideals or by fear of what could happen to him.

At the end of the day, the use of comic form forces the reader to really grasp the ideas and images put on the page. You cannot skim through these images the same way one would skim through a bunch of words. Every image, every panel, and every detail means something within the novel. All you have to do is find it and you’ll realize how serious this book can be. Maus is not the lazy man's book because it takes strength to find it's true intent and true meaning.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

The Comic Form in Maus

Many books are written about history and about the Holocaust every year, but there is one thing that sets Maus apart from most of them. It is a graphic novel. Books about history are not typically written in this fashion, maybe because they are considered less professional or maybe because they are made by people who don’t know how to make graphic novels. Either way, this factor really sets Maus apart from its peers. I have found that this form of storytelling is absolutely effective in conveying the emotional and historical weight of the Holocaust, and maybe even excels at it. It is probably not an easy thing to do, to write a graphic novel that affects the reader in the way Maus does, and it may have a large amount to do with Spiegelman’s personal art style, but it ends up coming across in a way that is able to convey the story much more vividly than I think it would have been able to in another medium. The art style gives the story a much different feel than it would if it was just words, and it allows Spiegelman to convey his emotions and the emotions that his father describes in a much more direct way. In some ways I feel like this is almost a better way to talk about the Holocaust, because in a normal book it is much more up to the imagination of the reader to decide what their interpretation of the author’s words is, and it lets them come up with their own idea of what the Holocaust must have been like. However, although this works well for fictional stories, for books about real people’s experiences in real events like the Holocaust, the story is not up for interpretation. The graphic novel form allows Spiegelman to tell it like it is, and not how the reader thinks it is. I also found that Spiegelman’s style of drawing was adaptable to many different types of situations; it could be good in a more peaceful setting, or in a stressful setting, or in a terrible setting. It was able to convey the horrors of the camps, but also get across the feelings of happiness that were present in the book as well. I felt like Spiegelman was really able to use light and dark and the thickness and jaggedness of lines to convey a variety of emotions. It also helped with the formatting of the novel. The story jumped between past and present a lot, going from being in the story that Vladek was telling to showing him telling it and how he feels about these stories in the present. I really liked this aspect of the book, because it really makes Vladek seem like a real person and allows you to see how his experiences have affected and changed him over time. It makes the story much more realistic because you can see how he is a flawed character, just as anyone is, and allows anyone to find something to relate to in any of the characters in the book. This aspect of the book would not be possible without the graphic novel format. It allows Spiegelman to jump back and forth whenever he wants and with little warning, which would be much too confusing for the reader if it was done in a regular book. It allows you to connect with the characters in a way that is not possible in another format. The idea that the medium lacks the seriousness to discuss the Holocaust is ridiculous. Any medium has the potential to discuss a heavy and serious topic, it just depends on how people use it. Comic books and graphic novels have a reputation for being less serious and more focused toward children, but that doesn’t mean they always have to be. Spiegelman does a great job of proving this, as there is so much serious imagery and so many advanced topics in this book that would be inaccessible to children and require a reader who is really interested in and understanding of the topics being discussed for its full effect to be seen. The emotion and weight that comes with a book about the Holocaust is really well portrayed in this book, and it is definitely deserving of its high praise despite its abnormal form.
West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 10

Spiegelman's Effective Use of the Graphic Novel

When the word “graphic novel” is said, most people's minds go automatically to fictional comic books about fantasy realities. The use of a graphic novel seems integral to many books in that genre because of the difficulty it takes to convey that mystical world the way the author intends. In more recent history, graphic novels have really started to gain popularity as a genre to recount different events in our world. The first big example of this was done by Art Spiegelman in Maus I & II. Published in 1991, the graphic novel completely redefined the genre as well as gave a new way to learn about the atrocities of the Holocaust. It is widely regarded as a groundbreaking piece of literature in the way Spiegelman used pictures and deeply personal stories to give the reader a better understanding of an event so horrible it can be hard for the average reader to grasp its weight in the way Maus captures it. The novel tells the story of Spiegelman's father, Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust. The narrative unfolds in a series of flashbacks, with Vladek recounting his experiences during World War II, including his time in Auschwitz concentration camp. What makes "Maus" particularly unique is its use of anthropomorphic animals to represent different ethnic groups. Jewish people are depicted as mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, and so on. This creative choice adds layers of symbolism and complexity to the narrative, allowing Spiegelman to explore themes of dehumanization even farther. For example, every panel on page 51 is the first time the reader really sees the cats and mice (Germans and Jews) interact. A lot of emotional weight is seen with this because of how he depicts the characters on this page. All of the Jewish people are lined up and their faces are drawn with simplicity. Despite this, Spiegelman is able to perfectly capture how each character was feeling through eyebrow placement and how their mouths were curved. These subtle differences made a huge difference in understanding the individual feelings of every character while still following the plot– something a typical novel would fall short with. Spiegelman’s impact using the comic becomes consistently more evident as the story progresses. Pages 110 and 112 show drawings that depicted the bunkers they had to hide from the Nazis. This visual would not have been possible with a written book because there would be no way to achieve that level of understanding without seeing it. The image of Vladek’s recount helps the story become more comprehensive. Just a few pages later on 115, an incredibly important part of the book was drawn. Anja’s father is taken away as a result of the Nazis finding her parents hiding and them being too old to escape with the family. The image is of Anja’s father in the train being taken to the gas chambers. The mouse version of him has his head to the sky as he cries and rips out his hair. Overlapping that panel, Spiegelman drew Vladek recounting the event and how he never saw him again. The depiction of Vladek over the haunting image of Anja’s father not only conveyed unreplicatable emotions, but also provided a fluid movement of past and the present. It further reminds the reader that on top of these gruesome stories, real people experienced each and everyone. Using the medium of graphic novel adds an additional layer of seriousness that would have been unattainable through a typical novel. In “‘The Shadow of Past Time’: History and Graphic Representation in Maus”, writer Chute explains that “comics can approach and express serious, even devastating histories” which is exactly what this story did and inspired so many after it to do. The use of the graphic novel to say this story was needed for the complexities, dynamics, and difficulties to shine through.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

The Comic Form and Generational Trauma in Maus

In Maus, Art Spiegelman uses the comic form to explain aspects of the Holocaust that are difficult to convey in words, as well as to immerse the reader in the experiences of the characters. As nicehair85 explains, in Maus, “everything from facial expressions [to] symbols [to] environments is drawn out.” I think the best example of this is Spiegelman portraying Jews as mice, Poles as pigs, and Germans as cats: Spiegelman thus explains wordlessly that Nazis hunt Jews as if to do so is in their nature. To further prove his point, Spiegelman emphasizes Pesach’s death: Pesach and Haskel had befriended many Gestapo in the Srodula ghetto, which made their lives easier for a little while. However, when Pesach made a deal with one of the Gestapo to escape after the ghetto was liquidated, the soldier betrayed him and killed Pesach and the group leaving with him. While it certainly would have been possible to explain that Nazis and their enablers behaved like animals in their murder and torture of Jewish people, it is easier to understand this part of the Holocaust by seeing each character portrayed as an animal, and for the most part, behaving accordingly.

In addition, the comic form of Maus allows the reader to follow two storylines at the same time, which I think is the best way to explain Vladek’s trauma. For example, on page 83, when Vladek reveals Richieu’s death for the first time in the story, he speeds up on his bike, as if trying to outrun the awful memory. In the next panel, Vladek is exhausted as he tells Artie that he had to send Richieu away a year later, explaining that Vladek’s trauma from the Holocaust is still draining (to say the least) all these years later.

In “‘The Shadow of a Past Time’: History and Graphic Representation in Maus” by Hillary Chute, Spiegelman argues that the ability to follow multiple storylines at once is the nature of comics, saying “...each box [is a] different moment of time—and you see them all at once. As a result you’re always, in comics, being made aware of different times inhabiting the space” (Spiegelman in Chute). I see dual storylines as a crucial part of Maus, especially in explaining generational trauma.

For instance, on pages 70-71, Vladek tells Artie (in the present) that he has thrown out his coat because it was too shabby, and he gives Artie his old coat, which is in better shape. Although this is certainly an overstep, Vladek has just finished telling Artie about his time as a prisoner of war in 1939, where among many other abuses, he was given only a thin blanket to keep himself warm, and his only clothes were an army summer uniform. Although Vladek throws out Artie’s coat in a wildly different time, Spiegelman is able to explain his father without being painfully direct by using the dual storyline technique.

There are many instances throughout Maus where Vladek’s trauma becomes obvious, such as when he insists on returning his half-eaten groceries to save money, or on page 79 of Maus II, when Artie, Francoise, and Vladek drive through a present-day forest with four Jewish girls hanging, a scene that has clearly been impossible for Vladek to forget. In the midst of Vladek’s horrific stories, Artie visits his therapist wearing a mouse mask, and the two, among other things, talk about survivor’s guilt. Pavel, who is also wearing a mouse mask, suggests that Vladek was so hard on Artie “to show that he was always right—that he could always survive—because he felt guilty about surviving” (Spiegelman 45). I think Vladek has transmitted his own guilt to Artie, who tells Pavel that everything he has accomplished seems like nothing in comparison to surviving Auschwitz. His mouse mask implies that his guilt makes him question his own identity, as if he is not Jewish “enough” because he didn’t have to go through the Holocaust. Notably, Vladek is never portrayed in a mouse mask, only as a mouse, signaling Spiegelman’s struggle to understand his father (Pavel suggests that Vladek felt survivor’s guilt, which might have otherwise given him a mouse mask).

Finally, on the very last page of Maus II, Vladek mistakes Artie for Richieu as he falls asleep. I found this to be a beautiful and heartbreaking ending, because it reminds the reader of Richieu, who symbolizes innocence, and hints that Artie has spent his life feeling guilty and being compared to his forever perfect, innocent brother.

The lasting sentiment of Maus is one of discontent, which I think is intentional: Vladek was never able to move past his trauma, and though Artie’s trauma and guilt do not impose on his life to the extent of his father, they are and will stay a part of him.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

The Effectiveness of Comic Form in Maus

Spiegelman’s use of the comic is extremely effective at conveying the emotional and historical weight of the Holocaust, because it gives a more accurate picture of what it felt like to experience the trauma, betrayal, joy, and heartbreak of the Holocaust. I believe the advantage of comic books is most evident in the less grotesque scenes, which words alone cannot capture the emotions of. For example, on page 62, Vladek is forced to pee in his own tent.. The ephemera of the situation - the sour smell of the pee, the heat of his own breath, and the sweat from fear of nearly being shot at for simply trying to use the restroom - convey the humiliation to the reader in a way that a chunk of text simply cannot. Another example of the comic book being more effective than text comes on page 85 of Maus I, when Vladek is stopped carrying goods he bought under the table. In one panel, his eyes are closed dots, conveying a sense of fear. In the very next panel, his eyes are two open dots, which give off a relaxed feeling. This demonstrates how survivors like Vladek had to master the art of masking one’s emotions in rapid time. Artie doesn’t have to explicitly say “my dad had to constantly hide his fear of being killed, and therefore expects me to stomach his tyrades without responding emotionally”. We can infer that much from two little dots. Imagery is also a very effective way to show parallels between the past and the present. On page 84 of Maus I, Vladek makes the same expression in past and present - one of pain and grief - in reaction to the hangings of his friends. This helps us understand how Vladek now is the same man as the Vladek who went through the Holocaust, which many readers might lose sight of. Especially nowadays, when there are no survivors left who were adults during the Holocaust, it is hard to remember that people actually went through these events. So moments that show Vladek remembering traumatic experiences are especially potent.

People who argue the comic book form is downplaying the seriousness of millions of people being killed clearly lack empathy. Seeing the agony and pain these mice went through was extremely difficult for me to go through and let me know how horrible the Nazis were. I don’t need to literally see dead bodies to understand the trauma and seriousness of the Holocaust. I think there’s a morbid curiosity to see these images, which is understandable, but not necessary to understanding the weight of the event. Also, Artie very intentionally chose to use animals instead of humans. Not only are animals an effective way at delineating different nationalities in the way the Nazis did, but it also protects the sanctity of his parents’ and other Jewish people’s lives. Artie knew that his father didn’t enjoy staying steeped in his and Anja’s Holocaust stories because Vladek destroyed all of Anja’s diaries, saying “These papers had too many memories. So I burned them” (Maus I, 158). Therefore, creating a story with real life images would be disrespecting his father’s wishes for how his and his family’s experiences were put out to the world. If “Vladek and his wife, Anja Spiegelman, never spoke to each other in detail about their (literally unspeakable) experiences in the camps” as Hillary Chute writes in “The Shadow of a Past Time”, how could Artie have felt comfortable creating images of them going through these moments for the whole world to see? Vladek did support the project in the end, but these questions of how much access to give the public to his family’s life haunted Artie. Using a comic form was a way to convey the weight of the Holocaust while not continuing to exploit his father. In the end, choosing this medium made Maus so revolutionary and sparked questions about Holocaust representation and the use of art in describing genocide, which is exactly what Artie wanted.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Use of Comic Form in Maus

Art Spiegelman's use of the comic form effectively conveys the emotion of the story in a way that other mediums cannot. Spiegelman uses visual elements to subtly but effectively show how characters feel and think rather than clearly telling the reader this information. This allows the reader to gain a deeper understanding of the story’s message as it forces the reader to stop and think about the various themes; expressing a message through visuals rather than directly stating that message leaves enough room for interpretation to prompt the reader to think about how the visuals connect to other elements of the story, leading to them gaining a more comprehensive understanding of Spiegelman’s message. A prime example of how Spiegelman’s comic style conveys his message in a way that can’t be replicated by writing is the symbolism of the animals and the nationalities they represent. Jewish people being depicted as mice and German people as cats is a fairly obvious commentary on the power dynamic between the two groups and it further conveys the hopelessness of the situation, reinforcing how the Jews were “prey” to the Nazis. What’s even more interesting is the depiction of Polish people as pigs, which Spiegelman does to criticize the passivity of the Polish during the Holocaust. In combination with the attitude of many of the Polish characters depicted in Maus, Spiegelman’s choice to symbolically represent them as pigs allows him to express his opinions in a much more nuanced and creative way, which I think helps get his point across much more effectively. Spiegelman’s use of the comic format also allows the viewer to more clearly view the relationship between the past and present. The panels that take place in Vladek’s past are often interjected by panels that take place in the present whether they be conversations between Artie and Vladek, or subtler visual clues that further reinforce the themes. An example of this is when Vladek is telling the story about what happened to his brother Richieu. The panel that takes place in the past is followed by three pictures of Vladek on his exercise bike, his expression gradually turning to a frown while he tells Artie how Richieu had died. Spiegelman uses the comic format to illustrate how Vladek is still disturbed, reinforcing the central theme of generational trauma, and how the impact of what happened to Holocaust survivors left deep psychological scars that not only affected survivors themselves, but also their descendants. When asked how the comic form impacted the message of his story, Spiegelman said he “hopes to show…that comics make language, ideas, and concepts “literal”...{calling} attention to how the medium can make the twisting lines of history readable through form”. Spiegelman also agrees that his comic form, with a combination of formatting and symbolism through artistic choices, calls attention to the themes and messages in a way that writing cannot do. Overall, Spiegelman’s choice to tell his story in the comic form helps get his point across much more effectively, and although some may think the art style is too “cartoonish” for the subject matter, Spiegelman’s incorporation of the art style is integral to helping the reader understand the story’s themes so the “sloppy” style is not an issue.

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