The Depth of a Graphic Narrative: An Overview of Maus II

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In Art Speigelman’s Maus II, he re-establishes the various animals that represent the certain groups of human characters. This may seem like yet again, a symbolic interpretation of his narrative. However, as I read on, I felt that he went deeper into why he chose to do this. And what about Artie’s mother? I felt greatly disappointed that we couldn’t hear her own side of the horrors she faced. This as well, made more sense to me as I read on.

Artie adds several new animals to his visuals. A moose(Swedes), frogs(French), and dogs(Americans). It was the part in chapter three when Francoise picks up the hitch-hiker that made me realize why Artie put people as animals instead of humans in his comics. Vladek yells to Francoise, “a hitch-hiker? And-OY-it’s a colored guy, a Shvartser!” I was rather surprised to hear Vladek say this. Even as the friendly hitch-hiker(who was represented as a black dog)rode with them, Vladek cursed under his breath in Polish. Once the man leaves, Vladek makes a hateful claim; “I had the whole time to watch out that this Shvartser doesn’t steal our groceries from the back seat!” Francoise puts it all into perspective when she defiantly yells, “that’s outrageous! How can you, of all people, be such a racist! You talk to the blacks the way the Nazis talked to the Jews!” This made me realize that hatred didn’t start until people were put into categories such as social class, race, religion, gender, and sexuality. It is because of these categories that we have hatred, genocide, and war. When Vladek replies, “it’s not even to compare. The Shvartsers to the Jews!” It pained me to realize that hatred is instilled in us all. This is why Artie put humans in different animal categories. After all, with all this hatred and death; could human beings really do this to each other?

And what about Anja? She went through just as much as Vladek went through. Why did Vladek have to throw out all her memories? It greatly disturbed me how Anja didn’t get the chance to justify her suicide. But when Artie goes to talk to Pavel, his shrink in chapter two, it brought an insight  to not only her own story we couldn’t hear, but all the other Jews who last their lives. Artie explains that even though his success with his first part of Maus, “it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz.” Pavel then turned Artie’s perspective around by saying that “maybe your father needed to show that he was always right-that he could always survive-because he felt guilty about surviving.” They then talk about survival. Artie feels that “life equals winning, so death equals losing.” Pavel explains, “but it wasn’t the best people who survived, nor did the best ones die. It was random!” Pavel then added, “the victims who died can never tell their side of the story, so maybe it’s better not to have any more stories.” It was this meeting that made me realize a sad but important truth. Anja wasn’t the only one that couldn’t share her story. Many more honorable Jews had died that didn’t get to tell their story as well. And maybe there were those that didn’t deserve to survive that did. However, this wasn’t Artie’s story he was sharing. This was his fathers survival story, and how his father told it to “the REAL survivor.”

The brutality of the Holocaust is indescribable to many. This could be said for Art Speigelman when he first decided to take on the challenge of telling his fathers story. Pavel said to Artie that “many books have already been written about the Holocaust. What’s the point? People haven’t changed…” This is why Art made the Graphic Narrative that he did. He incorporated a harrowing and gripping text with symbolic and even detailed images to portray a Holocaust we have never read or seen before.

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