Maus: The Andromophism of Reality

Maus. An andromorphic comic written by Art Spiegelman about his father’s experience in the Holocaust.

I was very surprised we were reading a comic in class. Most of my english classes don’t use comics as a reading assignment so I was very thrilled to see it. When I purchased the comics, I quickly started reading a few chapters. At first, I was confused on why the Jews and the cats are the Nazis. It was well played for Art to illustrate the animals like this. Mice are small, they are pest that humans would want to get rid of, and one of the methods of getting rid of mice, is to have cats catching them. That’s why the Nazis are portrayed as cats. After a while, I stopped and decided to read it in class.

It actually took me a bit longer than usual to read the comic. Probably because I read many Japanese comics, that are right to left, and they have much less panels to read. Spiegelman had a style that he would try to cram as much space as he can use. The drawings were quite small and sometimes they are a bit hard to follow. The thinking text were outside of the panel rather than in the panel as well. After awhile I got very use to it so the next few chapters, I could read it much faster than I started. Even though the drawings were meant to be cartoonish, I do feel moments in the comic that would give me goosebumps. Ex: When Anja sister poisoned herself and the children, and when some of the jews were hanged and their corpse were still there in the noose.

There were some humor in the comic as well. Spiegelman must have used it to give breathers to the readers. So much darkness that Vladek had gone through must have stressed the readers. I giggled on a few times on some parts. Spiegelman also inserted his previous comic in the story too. I’m not sure why he did it, but the fact the previous comic had a huge contrast between styles.

Through out the first volume, Vladek was very lucky to managed to keep him as his wife away from getting to a concentration camp. Sadly most of his family didn’t survive, and in the end he and his wife did get caught and are now currently seperated. But since Vladek is telling the story to Spiegelman, you know in the end the two survived.

A Story Told and Shown

I grew up reading comic books, and I have even read a few graphic novels. Though unlike Maus by Art Spiegelman, the comics and graphic novels I have read before were pure fiction. This made me a little skeptical of the ability of a graphic novel to convey a story with non-fiction  elements about the holocaust. However, once I started reading Maus, this skepticism completely went away.

I quickly found myself enjoying every moment of the story, and the way that Spiegelman wrote the dialogue for his father telling the story was by far my favorite aspect of the novel. While to some it may seem like the parts where Spiegelman’s father  are horribly written, I felt like these parts really added a voice to the story. Every time I would read lines like “By October 1937, the factory was going, and it was born my first son,”(p30) I constantly found myself reading it with an accent. Whether that accent is accurate or not I felt didn’t matter, but I imagine that it was intended to give that effect. This made it seem so real even though the characters were drawn as animals. I also felt myself comparing the way the story was told with The Princess Bride(the movie not the book because I never read the book). One of the easiest ways you could see how the two compare is when Art interrupts his father’s story on page 45. like Fred Savage does to his grandfather in The Princess Bride. Obviously there are major differences between the two, but I really enjoyed how this made the story seem like something actually being told.

The only thing that I did not really like were the parts of the novel that seemed a bit esoteric. Usually when reading a comic, I do not want to have to look up things that I do not know other than certain words.  However, these parts were few and far between, and they did not take away anything from the novel.

Powerfully Real

Even though Art Spiegelman drew all the people as animals it didn’t take away from the seriousness of the story in fact it added to it. The reason behind his drawing it this way is pure symbolism. Jews were symbolized as mice, seen by the Germans as vermin and lowly creatures. Police were represented as pig, which is pretty self-explanatory. Germans were quite appropriately drawn as cats, seeing themselves as superior, stronger, etc. It’s classic cat vs. mouse. Cats run the mice out and kill the mice; ridding the world of vermin.

A page from Maus by Art Spiegelman

The way Spiegelman tells the story makes it feel all the more real. He doesn’t simply tell and illustrate his father’s story but he tells it through his father’s voice and the way his father told it to him, tangents included. Stories are always more enjoyable when a character’s dialog is written exactly the way they speak and in Maus Vladek, Spiegelmen’s father, obviously has broken English. Spiegelman writes his father’s words, not his own, because it’s his father’s story, a true story, and when it’s purely Vladek the story is more powerful. You don’t get to allow yourself to forget that it’s true because of the manner in which it was presented.

What effect does words have on us?

The complete Maus by art spiegelman pg 17 and 20

When I was reading the first chapter of the maus I felt that the character “vladek” is an honest person and not making up stories, he tells his son about “Lucia Greenberg” who was interested in him, then on page 20 he talks about Artie’s mum “Anja” whom wasn’t attractive “not so like Lucia” this words where what made me start doubting his feelings for Anja. On that same page Vladek also states that Anja’s family where “well of millionaires”, I felt like he was interested in Anna because of her money but not so with Lucia since she was poor. This assumption was based on the words written not the picture; if you look at the pictures the words in the box have nothing whatsoever related to the picture. In “the future of literacy” kress states that “words are empty of meaning” (pg 3) so “filling it with our meaning” (pg 3) is our responsibility.

In today’s society, images do not have the same effect on us like words; an example is the second image, without the writings a reader can easily assume that they are two couples on a date admiring or staring at each other. That’s true, but what about the location? Are they really on a date or a valentine magazine? Do they know each other? For how long? What his or her name? Am not saying Images are always deceiving, but rather am stating that sometimes images doesn’t give us the whole truth or possibilities another example is the first image, it does not give the impression that Lucia is poor. Unlike images, words lets a reader read between the line and also add his or her believe into what they are reading, just like I assumed that vladek was only interested in Anna because of her money, I can also say that he is stating a fact or that he’s proud of marrying a wealthy woman.

Maus overview

Maus, a graphic narrative written by art spiegelman, is a comic about a boy, Artie, writing a story about his father’s life so except for the first couple of pages, the story follows Artie’s father, Vladek. Vladek lives in the time of the holocaust. The story flows well and is very interesting and entertaining, but the grammar used in it could be better, it’s not bad, or hard to understand, but some of it is not correct. Quite frequently they will do the Yoda talk. That is they will say phrases out of order. For example, instead of saying “I got a telephone call,” they would say, “a telephone call, I got.” It nothing too difficult to deal with, but it that made my reading experience not as pleasant.

In the first chapter, Artie visits his dad and starts recording his life, starting when he met a girl named Lucia that he was involved with for three or four years. Lucia asked Vladek to get engaged to him, but Vladek declines her request, telling his son, she did not possess much money. He then gets introduced to a girl named Anna, who is smart and the daughter of a very rich family, by his cousin and they gets engaged, and later married, and moves into one of his father-in-law’s houses with her.

The second chapter starts with Artie paying his father another visit. This time Vladek begins his story by telling Artie that Anna had a close friend who was a communist. And Anna was involved in communist conspiracies. She received letters and packages and translated and shipped them to Germany. Vladek’s story begins when Anna takes a package she got to a neighbor and asks her to hide it. She does so, but ends up getting arrested and taken to jail for 3 months. Up to this point everyone we meat is a mouse, but the two policeman are pigs, literally.

I have yet to see what the rest of the story holds. . .

Belowe is an image of the characters maus


Intellectual and Serious Comics?… What?

When we hear the words “comic book” or “graphic novel” we picture the ultimate superhero comic books that everyone knows about. But what about the term “graphic narrative”? Not a very common phrase that’s heard of, but what comes to mind? It’s actually just like a graphic novel but explores “a range of types of narrative work in comics”(767). In Hillary Chute and Marianne DeKoven’s “Introduction: Graphic Narrative” they delve deeper into the more “sophisticated”(767) content of graphic novels and the intellectual world in which most people don’t see and appreciate from those comics.

In todays day and age, if you put a picture with anything it’ll definitley capture someones attention, especially if it’s something controversial. The old way of thinking about graphic narratives was mostly through action hero comic books, but now there’s more to offer, especially when it comes to the content of a comic. It’s weird thinking that a comic book can be more than about saving the day, fighting crime, or using magical powers; it’s about pushing the envelope as far as topics can go and discussing issues that aren’t so fictional with images that aren’t always pleasant or cool. If i were to ask anyone about graphic novels such as the one’s listed in Chute and DeKovens article would anyone have any clue as to what i’m talking about? …Me neither, and that’s because the articles that are mentioned focus more on topics of “serious academic inquiry” (768) that really make the reader think, which is something that’s pretty much unheard of in the comic book world we think of.

I had no clue about one of the more prominent graphic narratives Maus until i learned we would be reading it in class. I also had no idea that it was a comic book-like novel that talks about Aushwitz. It’s a “Serious comic” (770) that really changes the image of what we think a comic book can be. In all honesty, if there’s pictures with it, then i’ll read it no matter what the content, even if it’s a graphic narrative that will make me think. Most peoples perceptions about a graphic novel are based on the content, so when it comes to such comics like Maus, would more people read it? Will people understand what this kind of literarature is all about? It’s all about keeping an open mind and broadening our imagination as far as our typical view of what comics really are.

The Two Worlds of Written and Spoken Language

In “Literacy in the New Age”, Kress begins by talking about the difference between language-as-writing and language-as-speech. He proposes a couple of questions that really gives a better understanding about the difference between speech and the written word, and the noticeable effect it has had on the younger generations. Kress states that “together they raise two questions: what is the likely future of literacy, and what are the likely larger-level social and cultural effects of that change?” I think that the future of literacy is going to take an extensive toll on the learning of proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.
If the majority of language that you see is written, and the majority of written language you see is abbreviated or shortened, how can you teach someone the proper way of speaking and writing? If someone is more inclined to send text messages and communicate via devices, how can you expect them to understand the correct way of speaking? With the invention of texting on cell phones and instant messaging on computers, people have been given “free passes” to shorten words and abbreviate phrases to make the messaging process faster and more simple. Most teenagers and young adults today are able to text and email fairly easily because of the fact that they were born into one of the most technological advancing decades. Because of these new inventions, people are much less inclined to meet up with people face to face since it is much easier to send a quick message.
Literacy is affected because of the laziness that people acquire when it comes to texting and instant messaging. To make the process easier, people decided to shorten words and abbreviate phrases and eventually these shortened words and abbreviations were recognized worldwide. With the spread of these lazy ways, proper grammar and punctuation are used less and less, and then barely at all. In conclusion, I believe that Gunther Kress’ theory about the literacy in the new media age is correct and very applicable to this generation.