Ones Individual Journey Through the Holocaust in Art Spiegelmans Graphic Novel Maus: A Survivors Tale
Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, is a creative take on the story of one individual’s journey through the Holocaust. In order to gain the reader’s sympathy Spiegelman uses different animals depicting specific races to explore the trivialized state the Jewish community was in during the events of the Holocaust.
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale is surprisingly more than just another graphic novel. It is more or so a piece of art that explores one of the world’s greatest tragedies. The novel follows the story of Vladek Spiegelman living through the Holocaust as his son, Art, interviews him for a book he’s writing. Through this story Spiegelman’s main pursuit within the novel is to highlight the conflict of race within Europe at the time of the Holocaust. He does this by depicting various races of people as animals. In doing so he looks to highlight the differences between the groups during this tragic time while also raising sympathy within the reader for the targeted Jewish race. The German’s are depicted as cats and are the oppressors of the Jewish population which are shown as mice. Other races appear such as the Polish population as pigs and Americans as dogs but their importance is not as distinctly beneficial to the story.
Spiegelman had specific motives behind his picks for the main groups of conflict within his story. He chose these two animals because of their common conflicts within nature. Just as cats attack mice in the wild the German Nazi’s attacked the Jewish population during the Holocaust. He wants the reader to easily assimilate this idea. By using cats and mice Spiegelman looks to express to his reader just how dire the situation is for the Jews. He wants to trivialize them for his readers to express just how bad the conditions were. In doing so he looks to create a sense of sympathy for the oppressed people. He wants the reader to root for the Jewish people as they look to overcome the oppression of the German Natzi’s.
The interactions between the German Nazi’s and Jewish people are also shown with great hostility. The Nazi’s commonly refer to the Jewish people as “Jew” as if the term degrades them as something less than human. The is seen in one instance after Vladek is captured as a soldier and is told, “well, Jew, don’t worry. We’ll find work for you” (51). The German’s regard for the Jewish people is seen as cold, almost as if they’re disgusted by the task of having to talk to anyone of Jewish heritage.
Spiegelman’s highlight of the theme of race is seen quite easily throughout his graphic novel, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. Through his depiction of the German Nazi’s and Jewish people as specific animals he is able to trivialize the Jewish people in order to express the horror’s around their situation within the Holocaust.